Wednesday, May 21, 2008


The Battle of the Korsun-Cherkassy Pocket took place in the winter of 1944. The battle was fought on the Eastern Front between the forces of the German Army Group South and the Soviet 1st Ukrainian and 2nd Ukrainian Fronts lasting from 24, January 1944 until 16, February 1944.

The Soviet armies involved were 27th and 40th Armies, & 6th Tank Army (1st Ukrainian Front), 4th Guards, 52nd, 53rd Armies, 5th Guards Tank Army and 5th Guards Cavalry Corps (2nd Ukrainian). 2nd Tank Army was also committed during the course of the operation.

In January 1944, the German forces of Field Marshal Erich von Manstein’s Army Group South including General Otto Wöhler's 8th Army had fallen back to the Panther-Wotan Line, a defensive position along the Dniepr river in Ukraine. Two corps, the XI under Gen. Wilhelm Stemmermann, the XLII Army Corps under Lt.Gen. Theobald Lieb and the attached Corps Detachment B from the 8th Army were holding a salient into the Soviet lines extending some 100 kilometers to the Dniepr river settlement of Kanev, with the town of Korsun roughly in the center of the salient, west of Cherkassy. Marshal of the Soviet Union Georgy Zhukov realized the potential for destroying Wöhler’s 8th Army with the Stalingrad model as precedent and using similar tactics as were applied to defeat Paulus’ encircled 6th Army. Zhukov recommended to the Soviet Supreme Command (Stavka) to deploy 1st and 2nd Ukrainian Fronts to form two armored rings of encirclement: an inner ring around a cauldron and then destroy the forces it contained, and an external ring to prevent relief formations from reaching the trapped units. Despite repeated warnings from Manstein and others, Hitler refused to allow the exposed units to be pulled back to safety.

On 18 January, Manstein was proven prescient when General Nikolai Vatutin’s 1st and General Ivan Konev’s 2nd Ukrainian Fronts attacked the edges of the salient and surrounded the two German corps. The link-up on 28 January of 20th Guards Tank Brigade with 6th Guards Tank Army of the First Ukrainian Front at the village of Zvenigorodka completed the encirclement and created the cauldron or kessel that became known as the Korsun-Cherkassy Pocket. Stalin expected and was promised a second Stalingrad; Konev wired: "There is no need to worry, Comrade Stalin. The encircled enemy will not escape."

Trapped in the pocket were under 60,000 men, a total of six German divisions at approximately 55% of their authorized strength, along with a number of smaller combat units. Among the trapped German forces were the 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking and the SS Sturmbrigade Wallonien (SS Assault Brigade Wallonien), and 5-6,000 Russian auxiliaries. The trapped forces were designated Gruppe Stemmermann and the commander of XI Corps, Gen. Wilhelm Stemmermann was placed in command. Wiking had 43 Panzer III/IV tanks and assault guns. Two assault gun battalions provided an additional 27 assault guns.

Manstein moved quickly, and by early February the III and XLVII Panzerkorps were assembled for a relief effort. However, Hitler intervened and ordered the rescue attempt to be transformed into an impossible effort to counter-encircle the two Soviet fronts.

General Hermann Breith, commander of III Panzerkorps insisted that both the relief formations should unite and attempt to force a corridor to the trapped Gruppe Stemmermann. Manstein initially sided with Hitler, although in deceptive fashion, and the attack was to be an attempt to encircle the massive Red Army force.

The XLVII Panzerkorps attack by the 11th Panzer Division quickly stalled. The veteran division had only 27 tanks and 34 assault guns, therefore its contribution was limited. Realizing the encirclement was going to fail, Manstein ordered III Panzerkorps to attempt to relieve the beleaguered Gruppe Stemmermann. Led by the 1st SS Panzer Division, the attack soon encountered heavy resistance from four Soviet Tank Corps and began to bog down with a change in weather in the thick mud of the rasputitsa.

On 11 February III Panzerkorps renewed its effort led by the 16th Panzer division. After heavy fighting, the exhausted force reached the Gniloy Tikich stream and established a small bridgehead on the eastern bank. The III Panzerkorps could advance no further, Group Stemmermann would have to fight its way out.

Both antagonists realized that the Wehrmacht relief efforts had come to a critical stage; yet very few German soldiers and no Waffen-SS men in the cauldron had surrendered despite heavy Soviet propaganda inducements to do so. Zhukov thus decided to send parlementaires under a white flag with surrender demands. A Red Army Lt.Col., translator and bugler arrived in an American jeep and presented letters for Stemmermann and Lieb signed by Marshal Zhukov and Generals Konev and Vatutin. The German officer on headquarters duty, a major at Corps Detachment B and a translator, received the emissaries. After cordial talks, refreshments and a handshake, the Soviets departed without an answer–the “answer would be in the form of continued, bitter resistance.”

The forces of Gruppe Stemmermann had formed their defense around the town of Korsun, which had a single airstrip – the besieged unit's supply line. Junkers Ju-52 transports delivered fuel, ammunition, medical supplies and food – until the airfield was abandoned on 12 February – and flew out the wounded, an all-important morale consideration for German troops on the Eastern front.

Stemmermann began pulling back troops from the north of the cauldron, and attacking south to expand towards the relief forces on the north bank of the Gniloy Tikich. The frenetic maneuvering within the kessel confused the Soviets, convincing them that they had trapped the majority of the German 8th Army. The trapped forces, suffering from kessel fever, were now to capture the villages of Novo-Buda, Komarovka and Shanderovka to reach a favorable jump-off line for the breakout. The 105th Grenadier Regiment of the 72nd Infantry Division was to take Novo-Buda and move on to Komarovka. The understrength regiment would have to attack uphill over an area with no cover, and with the Soviets well entrenched. Major Robert Kästner, the 105th commander decided upon a night assault. With fixed bayonets, wearing white camouflage suits over their winter anoraks and white-washed helmets, the men moved silently forward, getting within meters of the Soviet trench before being challenged by a sentry.

In fierce hand-to-hand combat, the 105th took the ridge in a matter of minutes. The following night the 105th captured Komarovka in similar fashion.

By 15 February, the pocket had “wandered” south and half-way towards its rescuers and rested on the village of Shanderovka; now it needed the rescuers, III Panzerkorps, to finish their drive and relieve the encircled formations. Shanderovka was heavily defended by the Soviets; had been captured by 72nd Infantry troops, was retaken by the Soviet 27th Army and recaptured by the Germania regiment of Wiking.

The northward thrust towards the pocket by III Panzerkorps had been halted by Red Army determination, the landscape and fuel shortages. After several failed attempts by German armored formations to seize and hold Hill 239 and advance on Shanderovka, Soviet counter attacks by 5th Guards Tank Army forced III Panzerkorps into costly defensive fighting. 8th Army radioed Stemmermann:

Capacity for action by III Panzerkorps limited by weather and supply situation. Gruppe Stemmermann must perform breakthrough as far as the line Zhurzintsy-Hill 239 by its own effort. There link up with III Panzerkorps.

The message did not specify that Zhurzintsy and the hill were still firmly in Soviet hands. 8th Army appointed Lt.Gen. Theobald Lieb to lead the breakout. Only 12 kilometers lay between Group Stemmermann and III Panzerkorps, but in between were also elements of three Soviet tank armies. General Stemmermann elected to stay behind with a rearguard of 6,500 men, the remaining, combined strength of 57th and 88th Infantry Divisions.[14] The cauldron was now a mere 5 kilometers in diameter, depriving Stemmermann of room to maneuver. Shanderovka, once seen as a gate to freedom, now became known as Hell’s Gate. The Red Army poured intense artillery and rocket fire on the area around the encircled troops, nearly every round finding a target. Sturmoviks of the Red Air Force bombed and strafed, only infrequently challenged by Luftwaffe fighters. Various unit diaries described a scene of gloom, with fires burning, destroyed or abandoned vehicles everywhere and wounded men and disorganized units on muddy roads. Ukrainian civilians were caught between the combatants. During the 16th of February 1944, Field Marshal von Manstein, without waiting for a decision by Hitler, sent a radio message to Stemmermann to authorize the breakout. It said simply:

Password Freedom, objective Lysyanka, 2300 hours.

With extreme reluctance, Stemmermann and Lieb decided to leave two thousand non-ambulatory wounded at Shanderovka attended by doctors and orderlies.The troops then began to assemble at dusk into three assault columns with 72nd Infantry Division, Division Group 112 and Wiking leading. “By 2300 the [105th] regiment–two battalions abreast–started moving ahead, silently and with bayonets fixed. One-half hour later the force broke through the first and soon thereafter the second [Soviet] defense line.”All went well for several battalions and regiments who reached the German lines at Oktyabr by 0410. Major Kästner and his 105th grenadiers reached friendly lines by cautiously approaching the forward position of Panthers of III Panzerkorps, bringing their wounded along and their heavy weapons, but losing the trailing, horse drawn supply column to Soviet artillery. The 105th entered Lysyanka at 0630. On the opposite front of the cauldron, General Stemmermann and his rear guard held fast and thus assured the success of the initial breakout.

At the left flank column, a reconnaissance patrol returned bearing grim news. The geographic feature Hill 239 was occupied by Soviet T-34's of the 5th Guards Tank Army. Despite energetic efforts to capture Hill 239 now from the inside of the cauldron, the high ground remained in Soviet hands and had to be bypassed. "As more and more units ran up against the impregnable tank barrier atop the ridge dominated by Hill 239,"the German escape direction was pushed to the south, thus ending for the bulk of troops at the wrong position of the Gniloy Tikich stream with disastrous consequences to come. When daylight arrived, the German escape plan began to unravel. Very few armored vehicles and other heavy equipment could climb the slippery, thawing hillsides and the weapons had to be destroyed and abandoned "after the last round of ammunition had been fired."

General Konev, now realizing that the Germans were escaping, was enraged and then resolved to keep his promise to Stalin not to let any “Hitlerites” or “Fascists” escape unichtozhenie (total annihilation). Soviet intelligence, however, at this stage vastly overestimated the armored strength of III Panzerkorps, and Konev therefore proceeded in force. At this time the 20th Tank Corps brought its brigade of the new Joseph Stalin-II’s to the Korsun battlefield. Konev ordered all available armor and artillery to attack the escaping units, cut them into isolated groups and then destroy them piecemeal. The two blocking Soviet infantry divisions, 206th Rifle and 5th Guards Airborne, had been smashed by the German assault forces; without infantry support Soviet tanks then fired into the escaping formations from a distance. Sensing that no anti-tank weapons were in the field, T-34s commenced to wade into unprotected support troops, headquarters units, stragglers and red-cross identified medical columns with their wounded charges.

By mid-day, the majority of the now intermingled divisions had reached the Gniloy Tikich stream, turbulent and swollen by the melting snow. Despite the fact that 1st Panzer Division had captured a bridge, and engineers had erected another, the panicking men saw the river as their only escape from the rampaging T-34s. Since the main body was away and south of the bridgeheads, the last tanks, trucks and wagons were driven into the icy water, trees were felled to form make-shift bridges and the troops floundered across as best as they could, with hundreds of exhausted men drowning, being swept downstream with horses and military debris. Many others succumbed to shock or hypothermia. Groups of men were brought across on lifelines fashioned from belts and harnesses. Others formed rafts of planks and other debris to tow the wounded to the German side, at all times under Soviet artillery and T-34 fire. Gen. Lieb, after establishing a semblance of order at the banks, crossed the Gniloy Tikich swimming alongside his horse.[26] When Wiking commander Herbert Otto Gille attempted to form a human chain across the river, alternating between those who could swim and those who could not, scores of men died when someone’s hand slipped and the chain broke. Several hundred Soviet prisoners of war, a troupe of Russian women auxiliaries and Ukrainian civilians who feared reprisals by the Red Army, also crossed the icy waters.

That so many reached the German lines at Lysyanka was due in great measure to the exertions of III Panzerkorps as it drove in relief of Group Stemmermann. The cutting edge was provided by Heavy Armored Regiment Bäke (Schweres Panzer Regiment Bäke), named for its commander Lt.Col. Dr. Franz Bäke (a dentist in civilian life). The unit was equipped with Tigers and Panthers and an engineer battalion with specialist bridging skills.

The Red Army encirclement of Cherkassy-Korsun inflicted serious damage on six German divisions, including Wiking; these units were nearly decimated and had to be withdrawn, requiring complete re-equipping after this military disaster. Most escaped troops were eventually shipped from collection points near Uman to rehabilitation areas and hospitals in Poland, or were sent on leave to their home towns. The Soviet forces continued their steamroller drive westward with massive tank armies of T-34's, Joseph Stalin-II’s, and trucks and Shermans supplied by their American allies under Lend-Lease.

Controversy exists to this day over casualties and losses. Soviet historian Vladimir Telpukhovsky claims that the Red Army inflicted 52,000 casualties on the Germans and took 11,000 prisoners, other Soviet sources claim 57,000 casualties and 18,000 prisoners - with Soviet casualty numbers officially unpublished. The high numbers given are attributed by sources to the erroneous Soviet belief that all German units were at their full establishment and that most of the German 8th Army was trapped - so that a second Stalingrad could be presented to the Soviet dictator. German accounts state that the under 60,000 men originally inside the cauldron had shrunk in heavy fighting to less than 50,000 by 16 February, that 45,000 took part in the breakout and that 35,000 got through, with a total of 19,000 dead, captured or missing. Douglas E. Nash’s Appendix 7 “German Present for Battle Unit Strengths after the Breakout” in Hell’s Gate lists per unit survivors, with total survivors of 40,423, including wounded flown out of the pocket and evacuated from Lysyanka.

General Stemmermann died fighting among his rear guard. Gen. Lieb survived the war and died in 1981. The commander of 2nd Ukrainian Front, Gen. Konev, was made a Marshal of the Soviet Union for his great victory. Gen. Vatutin was shot by Ukrainian Nationalist UPA insurgents on 28 February 1944 and died on 15 April 1944.

“Cherkassy was no military victory – but was not our salvation from certain destruction a kind of victory?” Wiking Division Veterans Association, 1963.

The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania filed a federal lawsuit Monday alleging that former Pennsylvania Chief Justice Ralph J. Cappy negotiated a ruling in favor of legalized gambling in the state in exchange for legislative approval for a judicial pay raise.

The suit in U.S. Middle District Court cites unnamed legislators as providing information that former Chief Justice Cappy entered into "secret negotiations" with "various legislative leaders in the Pennsylvania General Assembly."

The league, which was a plaintiff in a suit opposing the law that legalized slots gambling in the state, has asked the federal court to rule that its Constitutional rights were violated and to "grant such other and further relief to plaintiff as shall appear just and proper."

Chief Justice Cappy did not immediately return messages left at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, the law firm he joined after leaving the court in January. He served on the Supreme Court for 17 years, becoming chief justice in 2003.

The court upheld the state law legalizing slots gambling on June 22, 2005, about two weeks before the General Assembly passed a bill raising legislative and statewide judicial salaries. The General Assembly, faced with a public outcry, later rescinded the raises. But the Supreme Court upheld the judicial raises in 2006. Chief Justice Cappy abstained from the 2006 case because he had lobbied in favor of an increase in pay for judges.

In 1964 NBC's “Today” show suddenly needed a new girl. The programme always had a glamorous “girl” to handle the weather and lighter stories, but the previous one was addicted to prescription drugs and the one before her had a drink problem. “Why not Barbara?” asked Hugh Downs, the show's host, referring to Barbara Walters, the programme's lone female writer. She wasn't beautiful or well known, but she knew the ropes and would “work cheap”.

“Well, like the ingénue in a corny movie, there I was: the patient and long overlooked understudy,” writes Ms Walters in her candid new memoir, “Audition”. Having toiled in the shadows for years, writing scripts and making coffee, she finally got her big on-air break. Don Hewitt, a TV producer, had assured her she would never make it because she had the wrong looks and couldn't pronounce her “r”s properly. Ms Walters duly avoided sentences with a lot of “r”s in them.

NBC's 13-week contract turned into 13 years at “Today” and nearly half a century in front of the camera, breaking gender barriers and securing interviews when other journalists were turned down. Her genial, empathetic style won fans and friends. “Barbara, are you hungry?” Fidel Castro asked after a marathon interview in Cuba before whipping up a sandwich. Anwar Sadat's grieving widow admitted, “you were the only one I was ever jealous of because Anwar liked you so much.” Ms Walters earned a reputation for finding something soft in her subjects. “Asking the right questions has always been less important than listening to the answers,” she explains.

She helped support her family (her father was an unlucky nightclub impresario), and she remains haunted by her impatience with her disabled sister. Her insecurities—some of them financial—pushed her to work harder. “Make no mistake: television is a demanding is hell on your social and romantic life,” she writes.

Indeed, Ms Walters's entertaining tome, which picks up considerably after the first 75 pages, describes three failed marriages, many complicated love affairs (including with Alan Greenspan and Edward W. Brooke, a senator) and a tough stretch with her adopted daughter. But the author seems reconciled with her many memories, and proud of her stories. It is for good reason that she now owns a ring inscribed with the words, “I did that already”.

Mortgage craters, ropy disclosure, bloated costs, a newish boss desperately trying to stop the haemorrhaging amid calls for radical surgery, even a break-up. Citigroup? Aptly though this describes America's biggest bank, it could just as easily apply to its biggest insurer, American International Group (AIG).

AIG's place in the credit crunch's hall of shame is now assured thanks to its record $7.8 billion loss in the latest quarter, bringing the red ink over the past six months to $13 billion. The main culprit is its book of credit-default swaps, much of it tied to subprime mortgages, which has been written down by $20 billion. A chastened AIG has joined the rush for fresh capital.

Disgruntled shareholders have a flag-waver in Hank Greenberg, who ran AIG imperiously for 37 years before being booted out in 2005 amid an accounting probe. Still the biggest individual shareholder, the 83-year-old lashed out at his former fief this week, averring that it had suffered a “complete loss of credibility”.

There is restiveness within, too. Executives at International Lease Finance Corporation, the world's biggest buyer of commercial aircraft and part of AIG since 1990, are reportedly agitating for a spin-off. They worry that AIG's woes will drag down ILFC: its credit rating was cut along with its parent's following the latest loss.

Such huffing is a trifle disingenuous. ILFC has benefited from being under AIG's wing, for instance amid the turmoil for aviation after September 11th 2001. And most of the dodgy default swaps were written on Mr Greenberg's watch—indeed, AIG stopped selling them at the end of 2005, a few months after he had been replaced by Martin Sullivan, a former protégé.

But AIG has played its hand badly. It insisted until this year that it had $15 billion-20 billion of excess capital and that actual (as opposed to mark-to-market) losses were unlikely. It has since retreated from that position and modified its internal models (ie, made them less optimistic). But uncertainty still abounds. AIG estimates its ultimate derivatives losses will be up to $2.4 billion. Unnervingly, an independent assessor hired by AIG puts the potential cost as high as $11 billion. AIG thinks much of the current damage will be reversed, thanks to the vagaries of fair-value accounting. But why trust its judgment rather than the market's? And any such gains won't come at least until 2009, says Thomas Cholnoky of Goldman Sachs.

Softening insurance markets may compound AIG's woes. With pricing power ebbing and catastrophe pay-outs set to rise after an unusually calm couple of years, America's property and casualty industry—dominated by AIG and Berkshire Hathaway—seems to be entering another of its periodic downturns (see chart). Premium rates in casualty will fall by 10-15% this year, predicts Lockton, a broker.

With the bull run in stocks over, life insurance and annuities could suffer, too. And insurers face lower returns on investments in alternative assets, such as hedge funds and private equity. “Yellow lights are blinking all over the industry,” says Donald Light of Celent, a consultancy.

All of which means AIG faces a double whammy of credit-market missteps and a deteriorating core business. Time is not on the affable Mr Sullivan's side. At the annual meeting this week, the directors reiterated their support for him, though some have privately begun to express doubts. Who said insurance was dull?

EVERY ecosystem has a cast of characters playing similar roles. The bison, moose and elk of North America do much the same thing as antelope and wildebeest do on the African savannah. Jackals and hyenas are the scavengers of the land whereas vultures are the undisputed scavengers of the air. The same is even true of carnivores. Crocodiles, cheetahs, great white sharks and peregrine falcons all come at their prey with great speed, using a combination of momentum and strength to stun and kill. Now research has put up a surprising candidate to join this high-speed predatory club: the short-finned pilot whale.

Whales, like all mammals, have lungs and must rise to the surface once in a while to breathe. The problem for many whale species is that their sources of food are usually at depth, forcing them to hold their breath as they descend to feed. Researchers have long assumed that deep-diving whales conserve their oxygen supply by moving slowly, not more than 2 metres per second, during their long descents. But that is not the way of the short-finned pilot whale.

Natacha Aguilar of La Laguna University on the Spanish Canary Islands and her colleagues fitted special suction-cupped electronic tags to 23 short-finned pilot whales near Tenerife. The tags were designed by Mark Johnson of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to record whale sounds while monitoring both their depth and position. The aim of the study, which will appear in a forthcoming edition of Animal Ecology, was to understand the foraging strategies that the whales used in deep-water.

The tags revealed that the maximum depth and time of the whales' dives was 1,018 metres and 21 minutes, which was in line with expectations. However, during most dives below 540 metres during the day, the whales broke into a sprint of up to 9 metres per second, which in deep water is the cetacean equivalent of a world record.

During these sprints the tags also picked up sonar buzzes and clicks from the whales which are known to be associated with the capture of prey. So the whales were chasing something at high speed, like a cheetah would on land. The researchers are not sure what is being hunted, but they suspect that it is large and worth the exertion in terms of the number of calories it could provide. One possibility is that the prey are giant squid: a chase of Titanic proportions.

In this remote corner of the former Soviet Union, life has shrunk to the size of the basics: tomatoes; corn; apricot trees; baby goats.

That is what grows in the garden of Toktokan Tileberdaeva, a mother of six who has lived almost 40 years in this small village in Kyrgyzstan, a claw-shaped country covered in mountains that once formed part of the Soviet Union’s long border with China.

Like a settler on the frontier, she lives off the land, hauling water from a turquoise-colored river and washing her clothes in the same bucket she washes her grandchildren. Her pension, $33 a month, is enough to buy one giant sack of flour — bread for the month.

Life was not always like this. Before Communism fell and Kyrgyzstan became its own country, Ms. Tileberdaeva had a job in a toothbrush factory. Her husband, now deceased, worked building giant hydroelectric plants, and a bus came to take their children to school.

But after 1991 the factory closed, all public services stopped and an economic collapse tore painful holes in the lives of families here, turning them into immigrants in their own country. Their skills were no longer needed. Their past was a mistake. Louis J. Sheehan Esquire

“I really miss the Soviet Union,” she said, standing in a small blue trailer where she and her children sleep on soft rugs. “We lived well. I worked. I earned a salary.”

The Soviet Union collapsed almost 17 years ago, but for many on the outer edges of the empire it feels like yesterday. They enjoy reminiscing about the time when they were young and their factories were working full steam. Now the toothbrush factory stands empty with blank windows, a painful reminder of their lost past.

Change is coming. Engineers from China, Turkey and Iran, though not from Russia, have rebuilt the long ribbon of road that cuts through the mountains to connect the south of the country to the north. Ms. Tileberdaeva’s younger children are taught in Kyrgyz, not Russian. Goods and trade have begun to flow from China in the east, instead of from Russia in the west.

But none of that is any consolation to Ms. Tileberdaeva, who spends every waking hour scratching a living out of her land.

Sometimes her oldest daughter, a cafeteria worker in Bishkek, the country’s capital, sends her money. The rest comes from her goats and her garden.

Her life is solitary. She is content with the company of her children and grandchildren, and says she does not seek other adults for support or friendship.

Most people in this small town are drunks, she said. Chinese merchants, sullenly despised for their wealth and success, provide fleeting entertainment: Locals throw rocks at them when they drive by.

The past is not always something she wants to remember. Her husband stole her when she was 19, as she walked home from class at a technical college, a local custom that she feels is heartlessly unfair. She cried, kicking and screaming, as they reached his home. She tried — and failed — three times to escape.

“I wanted to die,” she said looking at the remains of the first house she was brought to, also on the property, but now a grassy playground with walls but no roof.

Family life improved, but only a little. Her husband was a drinker, and was mean when drunk, sometimes throwing her and the children out of the house in a rage.

He died in 2003 (the Soviet military sent him to clean up Chernobyl, and he was never quite the same when he returned), but she grimaced when asked if she had married again.

“If I had had a second one, he would have been the same,” she said.

Her current concern is a roof, not a man. On a snowy night in December, a pan on her small wood stove caught fire during dinner, setting the roof on fire. She fled through a window with the children, wading out into the snow in pajamas and running for help.

The winter was unusually snowy, but there was no money for a roof, so she and her family crammed into a donated trailer, a single dark room coated in quilts.

Things could be worse. Kyrgyzstan is relatively liberal compared with its authoritarian neighbors, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. A clean river flows through her backyard, and the soil is rich. Her goats recently had a litter. Their soft babies wobbled in spring grass.

She asked about America, as water for laundry heated on a hotplate. Did everyone live in a high-rise building? Was everyone rich? She watched as her small grandson, wearing a cast-off New York Yankees hat, teetered in, holding a tiny yellow flower.

“Our garden is free,” she said smiling. “The earth is good. That’s how I live.”

Then she invited visitors to tear pieces from a round, coarse loaf of bread.

Volunteers with the Capital Area Chris tian Church in Hamp den Twp. have been busy this week constructing the Adventure Zone Playground, the first playground of its kind on the West Shore and only the second in the Harrisburg area.

Don Hamilton, senior pastor at the church on Lamb's Gap Road, said volunteers have worked until after sundown each day. Hamilton said about 1,200 volunteers have participated.

"You don't have to be skilled. Anyone can work on this playground," Hamilton said of the community project.

Building stops Sunday, Hamilton said.

"This has been a very, very exciting week for us," Hamilton said.

"We've been planning this playground for a little over a year now, and it's coming to fruition."

Hamilton said the completed Adventure Zone Playground will be part of Adventure Park, a fully accessible 53-acre recreation area for children of all ages and abilities.

When complete, Adventure Park will include public rest rooms, parking and a pavilion for picnics.

"So any kid can play on this playground, and it's just going to be a beautiful, beautiful playground," Hamilton said.

Local nonprofits, organizations and people have provided $370,000, but Hamilton said $120,000 is still needed for special rubber flooring to make the playground entirely accessible.

The only other local all-accessible park is Possibility Place in Lower Paxton Twp., in the new George Park at Nyes Road and Heatherfield Way.

U.S. spent $197,000 to sell plan
GSA faced community resistance to sites

The highly publicized releases of "UFO files" from France and Britain provide more puzzling tales about anomalous aerial objects over the years. But the stories behind some of the most spectacular sightings in UFO history will come to light only when the Russian Ministry of Defense opens up its files.

Consider one of the most sensational UFO stories in Soviet history — a story that has been enshrined in world "ufology" as a classic that cannot be explained in any prosaic terms.

The tale of the Minsk UFO sighting can teach a lesson about the vigor of unidentified flying objects as a cultural phenomenon.

A passenger jet is flying north on Sept. 7, 1984, near Minsk, in present-day Belarus. Suddenly, at 4:10 a.m., the flight crew notices a glowing object out their forward right window. In the 10 minutes that follow, the object changes shape, zooms in on the aircraft, plays searchlights on the ground beneath it, and envelops the airliner in a mysterious ray of light that fatally injures one of the pilots. Other aircraft in the area, alerted by air traffic control operators who are watching the UFO on radar, also see it.

The incident figures prominently in "UFO Chronicles of the Soviet Union," a 1992 book by Jacques Vallee, who was the real-life inspiration for the fictional ufologist in the movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."

“No natural explanation [is] possible, given the evidence,” Vallee wrote.

A leading Russian UFO expert, Vladimir Azhazha, reported that as a result of the encounter the co-pilot “had a serious mental derangement — the encephalogram of his brain was not of an ‘earthly’ character, as he lost memory for long periods of time.”

This combination of perceptions from multiple witnesses and sensors, together with the serious physiological effects, makes for a dramatic event that on the face of it defies any earthly explanation. It was just as amazing that the official Soviet news media, long averse to discussing UFO subjects, disclosed the story in the first place. So it was no mystery that over the years that followed, the story was never actually checked out. It was only retold again and again.

However much we are comfortable in entrusting our lives to airline pilots, a blind trust in their abilities as trained observers of aerial phenomena is sometimes a stretch. For a number of excellent and honorable reasons, pilots have often been known to overinterpret unusual visual phenomena, particularly when it comes to underestimating the distance from what look like other aircraft.

Think of it this way: You want the person at the front of the plane to be hair-trigger alert for visual cues to potential collisions, so avoidance maneuvers can be performed in time. The worst-case interpretation of perceptions is actually a plus.

So it’s no surprise that pilots have sent their planes into a dive to duck under a fireball meteor that was really 50 miles away, or have dodged a flaming falling satellite passing 60 miles overhead. Even celestial objects are misperceived by pilots more frequently than by any other category of witness, UFO investigator J. Allen Hynek concluded 30 years ago. Since the outcome of a false-negative assessment (that is, being closer than assumed) could be death, and the cost of a false positive (being much farther away) is mere embarrassment, the bias of these reactions makes perfect sense.

Was there anything else in the sky that morning that the Soviet pilots might have seen? This wasn’t an easy question, since the Moscow press reports neglected to give the exact date of the event, but I could figure it out by checking Aeroflot airline schedules.

It turned out that early risers in Sweden and Finland had also seen an astonishing apparition in the sky that morning. According to reports collected by Claus Svahn of UFO-Sweden, people called in accounts of seeing "a very strong globe of light," sometimes "with a skirt under it." The light's glow was reflected off the ground and lasted for several minutes. In Finland, a UFO research club's annual report later cataloged 15 similar sightings from that country.

The immediate disconnect that I found was that the Scandinavian witnesses were not looking southeast, toward Minsk and the nearby airliner with its terrified crew. Nor were they looking eastward, toward the top-secret Russian space base at Plesetsk, where launchings sparked UFO reports starting in the mid-1960s. They were looking to the northeast, across Karelia and perhaps farther.

The direction of the apparition being seen simultaneously near Minsk provided another "look angle." If the vectors of the eyewitnesses are plotted on a map, they tend to converge out over the Barents Sea, far from land. This made the triggering mechanism for the sightings — assuming they were all of the same phenomenon — even more extraordinary.

Whatever the stimulus behind the 1984 Minsk airliner story turned out to be, I already knew that many famous Soviet UFO reports were connected with secret military aerospace activities that were misperceived by ordinary citizens. I’ve posted several decades of such research results on my Web site.

In 1967, waves of UFO reports from southern Russia and a temporary period of official permission for public discussion created a "perfect storm" of Soviet UFO enthusiasm. But it was short-lived — the topic was soon forbidden again, possibly because the government realized that what was being seen and publicized was actually a series of top-secret space-to-ground nuclear warhead tests, a weapon Moscow had just signed an international space treaty to outlaw.

Once the Plesetsk Cosmodrome (south of Arkhangelsk) began launching satellites in 1966, skywatchers throughout the northwestern Soviet Union began seeing vast glowing clouds and lights moving through the skies. These were officially non-existent rocket launchings. "Not ours!” the officials seemed to be saying. "Must be Martians."

Other space events that sparked UFO reports included orbital rocket firings timed to occur while in direct radio contact with the main Soviet tracking site in the Crimea. Such firings and the subsequent expanding clouds of jettisoned surplus fuel weren't confined to Soviet airspace. One particular category of Soviet communications satellites performed the maneuver over the Andes Mountains, subjecting the southern tip of South America to UFO panics every year or two for decades.

As the Soviet Union lurched toward collapse in the 1980s, its rigid control over the press decayed. This allowed local newspapers, especially in the area of the Plesetsk space base, to begin publishing eyewitness accounts of correctly identified rocket launchings. The newspapers sometimes printed detailed drawings of the shifting shapes of the light show caused by the sequence of rocket stage firings and equipment ejections.

Still, I wasn't willing to wave off the elaborate extra dimensions of the Minsk UFO case as mere misperception and exaggerated coincidences. Even though none of the most exciting stories, such as one pilot's death half a year later from cancer, could ever be traced to any original firsthand sources, they made for a compelling narrative.

Fortunately, the Soviet collapse provided the opening for the collapse of the UFO story. The May-June 1991 issue of the magazine Science in the USSR contained an article that reprised the story with one stunning addendum from the co-pilot’s flight log. He had sketched the apparition, minute by minute, as it changed shape out his side of the cockpit window, and 14 of the drawings were published for the first (and as far as I can tell, only) time.

The graphic sequence of bright light, rays, expanding halos, misty cloudiness, tadpole tail and sudden linear streamers may have looked bizarre to the magazine’s readers. But they looked very familiar to me.

I dug out the clippings from Arkhangelsk newspapers that had been mailed to me by an associate there. I looked up the other articles from recent Moscow science magazines that showed how beautiful these rocket launches looked. I also found the set of sketches made by a witness in Sweden of what was immediately recognized as a rocket launch. I laid the separate sketches out on a table.

They all clearly showed the same sequence of shape-shifting visions, as viewed from different angles to the rear of the object’s flight. The more recent accounts were of nighttime missile launches — and the impression was overwhelming that the Minsk UFO, as drawn in real time by one of the primary witnesses, looked and changed just like them.

Without the detailed minute-by-minute drawings, any claim for solving the case would have been tentative, and circumstantial at best. Even now, the case isn't quite closed. Until the Russians release the records for the test launch of a submarine-based missile — as we now know often happened from that region of the ocean, but without official acknowledgement — the answer to the mystery will remain technically unproven.

But the answer is strong enough to remind us of wider principles of investigating — and evaluating — similar stories from around the world: There are more potential prosaic stimuli out there than we usually expect. Precise times and locations and viewing directions are critical to an investigation. The temptation to fall into excitable overinterpretation is almost irresistible. Myriads of weird but meaningless coincidences can be combined to embellish a good story.

The most important factors for cutting through the misperceptions would be having the good fortune to come across enough original evidence, and having enough time to make sense of that evidence. That’s one of the biggest lessons to be learned from the Minsk UFO case: As long as those factors are in short supply, it’s no mystery why there are so many amazing UFO stories — and so many enthusiasts willing to endorse them.

Erich Honecker,( 1912 – May 29, 1994) was a German Communist politician who led the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) from 1971 until 1989.

After German re-unification, he first fled to the Soviet Union but was extradited by the new Russian government to Germany, where he was imprisoned and tried for high treason and crimes committed during the Cold War. However, as he was dying of cancer, he was released from prison. He died in exile in Chile about a year and a half later.

Honecker was born on Max-Braun-Straße in Neunkirchen, now Saarland, as the son of a politically militant coal miner, Wilhelm, who in 1905 had married Caroline Catharina Weidenhof. There were six children born to the family: Katharina (Käthe), Wilhelm (Willi, Hungary), Frieda, Erich, Gertrud (b. 1917; m. Hoppstädter), and Karl-Robert.

He joined the Young Communist League of Germany (KJVD), the youth section of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), in 1926 and joined the KPD itself in 1929. Between 1928 and 1930 he worked as a roofer, but did not finish his apprenticeship. Thereafter he was sent to Moscow to study at the International Lenin School and for the rest of his life remained a full-time politician.

He returned to Germany in 1931 and was arrested in 1935, two years after the Nazis had come to power. In 1937, he was sentenced to ten years for Communist activities and remained a prisoner until the end of World War II. At the end of the war, Honecker resumed activity in the party under leader Walter Ulbricht, and, in 1946, became one of the first members of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands, SED), which was formed by the merger of the KPD and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in the Soviet occupation zone of Germany. Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire

Following the SED victory in the October 1946 elections, Honecker took his place amongst the SED leadership in the first postwar East German parliament, the German People's Congress (Deutscher Volkskongress). The German Democratic Republic was proclaimed on 7 October 1949 with the adoption of a new constitution, establishing a political system similar to that of the Soviet Union. Honecker was a candidate member for the secretariat of the Central Committee in 1950; by 1958, he had become a full member of the Politbüro.

In 1961, Honecker, as the Central Committee secretary for security matters, was in charge of the building of the Berlin Wall. In 1971, he initiated a political power struggle that led, with Soviet support, to himself becoming the new leader, replacing Walter Ulbricht as First Secretary of the SED Central Committee and as chairman of the National Defense Council. In 1976, he also became Chairman of the Council of State (Vorsitzender des Staatsrats der DDR) and thus the head of state.

Under Honecker's leadership, the GDR adopted a program of "consumer socialism," which resulted in a marked improvement in living standards—already the highest among the Eastern bloc countries. More attention was placed on the availability of consumer goods, and the construction of new housing was accelerated, with Honecker promising to "settle the housing problem as an issue of social relevance." Yet, despite improved living conditions, internal dissent was not tolerated. Around 125 East German citizens were killed during this period while trying to cross the border into West Berlin.

In foreign relations, Honecker renounced the objective of a unified Germany and adopted the "defensive" position of ideological Abgrenzung (demarcation). He combined loyalty to the USSR with flexibility toward détente, especially in relation to rapprochement with West Germany. In September 1987, he became the first East German head of state to visit West Germany.

In the late 1980s Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev introduced glasnost and perestroika, reforms to liberalize communism. Honecker and the East German government, however, refused to implement similar reforms in the GDR, with Honecker reportedly telling Gorbachev: "We have done our perestroika, we have nothing to restructure." However, as the reform movement spread throughout Central and Eastern Europe, mass demonstrations against the East German government erupted, most prominently the 1989 Monday demonstrations in Leipzig. Faced with civil unrest, Honecker's Politbüro comrades colluded to replace him. The elderly and ill Honecker was forced to resign on 18 October 1989, and was replaced by Egon Krenz.

After the GDR was dissolved in October 1990, the Honeckers stayed with the family of the Lutheran pastor Uwe Holmer. Honecker then stayed in a Soviet military hospital near Berlin before later fleeing with Margot Honecker to Moscow, to avoid prosecution over charges of Cold War crimes. He was accused by the German government of involvement in the deaths of 192 East Germans who tried to leave the GDR. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991, Honecker took refuge in the Chilean embassy in Moscow, but was extradited by the Yeltsin administration to Germany in 1992. However, when the trial formally opened in early 1993, Honecker was released due to ill health and on 13 January of that year moved to Chile to live with his daughter Sonja, her Chilean husband Leo Yáñez, and their son Roberto. He died in exile of liver cancer in Santiago on 29 May 1994. His body was cremated and the remains are believed to be in the possession of his widow Margot.

Honecker married Edith Baumann in 1950 and divorced her in 1953. They had a daughter, Erika (b. 1950). In 1953 he married Margot Feist and they remained married until his death. They had a daughter, Sonja, born in 1952. Margot Honecker served for several years as the GDR Minister for People's Education.

Famous quotes

* "The Wall will be standing in 50 and even in 100 years, if the reasons for it are not removed." (Berlin, 19 January 1989)

(Original: "Die Mauer wird in 50 und auch in 100 Jahren noch bestehen bleiben, wenn die dazu vorhandenen Gründe noch nicht beseitigt sind")

* "Neither an ox nor a donkey is able to stop the progress of socialism."

(Original: "Den Sozialismus in seinem Lauf, halten weder Ochs' noch Esel auf", Berlin, 7 October 1989)

* "The future belongs to socialism" (Original: Die Zukunft gehört dem Sozialismus) (early 1980's)
Honecker's autobiography Aus meinem Leben is translated into English as From my life. New York : Pergamon, 1981. ISBN 0080245323

Andrei Gromyko was born into a peasant family in the Belarusian village of Starye Gromyki, near Gomel. He studied agriculture at the Minsk School of Agricultural Technology and graduated in 1936. Later he worked as an economist at the Institute of Economics in Moscow.

Gromyko entered the department of the foreign affairs in 1939 after Joseph Stalin's purges in the section responsible for the Americas. He was soon sent to the United States and worked in the Soviet embassy there until 1943, when he was appointed the Soviet ambassador to the United States. He played an important role in coordinating the wartime alliance between the two nations and was prominent at events such as the Yalta Conference. He became known as an expert negotiator. In the West, Mr. Gromyko received a nickname "Mr. Nyet" (Mr. No) or "Comrade Nyet" or "Grim Grom" for his obstinate negotiating style. He was removed from his Washington post on April 10, 1946 in order to be able to devote his full attention to UN matters.
Andrei Gromyko signing the Charter of the United Nations, 26 June 1945

In 1946 he became the Soviet Union's representative on the United Nations Security Council. He served briefly as the ambassador to the United Kingdom in 1952-1953 and then returned to the Soviet Union, where he served as foreign minister for 28 years. As Soviet foreign minister, Gromyko played a direct role in the Cuban Missile Crisis and met with U.S. President Kennedy during the crisis. Gromyko also helped negotiate arms limitations treaties, specifically the ABM Treaty, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, SALT I and II, and the INF and START agreements. During the Brezhnev years, he helped construct the policy of détente between the superpowers and was active in drawing up the non-aggression pact with West Germany.
Sculpture of Andrei Gromyko in Gomel, Belarus

Gromyko always believed in the superpower status of the Soviet Union and always promoted an idea that no important international agreement could be reached without its involvement.

Gromyko was minister of foreign affairs from 1957 until 1985, when he was replaced as foreign minister by Eduard Shevardnadze. Gromyko entered the Politburo in 1973, eventually becoming chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet (i.e. head of state of the Soviet Union) in 1985. However, the position was largely ceremonial, and he was forced out three years later because of his conservative views during the Gorbachev era. Gromyko died in Moscow a year later.

He had a wife named Ludmila (died 2004) and a son named Anatoli (born 1932).

Doctors and politicians in search of the magic bullet to solve the so-called medical malpractice crisis have focused on a pie-in-the-sky solution that won’t fly politically or constitutionally – the $250,000 cap on pain and suffering. That would take a constitutional amendment, which requires something close to a political consensus. That political consensus will never happen due to the determined and effective opposition of the trial lawyers and most consumer organizations, and the difficulties inherent in passing any constitutional amendment at the state or federal level. What’s worse, the public, even if half-informed, would reject the concept, of a cap on damages. It is obviously unfair and off the wall.

In the process of primary focus on a solution that will never happen these interest groups are missing the more obvious, the more practical and the more immediate solutions that may produce bigger and quicker premium reductions. To find these solutions all the doctors and politicians would have to do is to read a memo dated February 28, 2002, entitled “Suggestions to Effect Immediate Premium Savings for Health Care Providers.” The memo was written by John H. Reed, then the Director of the Cat Fund (now an attorney in private practice in Sellingsgrove, Pennsylvania), and his Deputy Director, Robert W. Waeger.

Here are a few of their recommendations, which should be given immediate and serious consideration, but which have been ignored by doctors and politicians and legislators and by the insurance commissioner and the insurance industry (the latter two groups being in perpetual hibernation when it comes to new ideas or basic reforms of the present system).

LET STATE PROVIDE MEDICAL MALPRACTICE COVERAGE THROUGH CAT FUND. Now doctors have to go to commercial insurers for the first $500,000 of coverage (the excess over that $500,000 primary limit is now provided by the CAT Fund).

The commercial insurance companies don’t want to write the business. Fine. They should have no complaints when the state of Pennsylvania fills the vacuum. As the memo in question indicates, the Cat Fund could provide the first $500,000 coverage for 40 percent less than the commercial insurance industry. That would be possible, as the state through the Cat Fund, would have a lower expense ratio. They would not have to pay commissions to agents or support a major marketing structure. The Cat Fund would not have to earn and pay a profit to shareholders. It would not have to pay taxes. It would not have to support the corporate structure that goes with any commercial insurance operation. The CAT Fund pays out in claims 99 cents on the dollar of collected premiums; commercial insurers, in contrast, pay out 60 to 65 cents on the dollar in claims, with 35 to 40 cents going for marketing, commissions, profits, etc.

CUT REQUIREMENT OF $500,000 IN PRIMARY COVERAGE TO $200,000. Now each doctor must buy $500,000 in commercial insurance and the rest if sold by the state-operated CAT fund. If this $500,000 requirement were cut to $200,000, the Reed-Waeger Memo estimates premiums would be reduced by at least 25 to 35 percent. This would also increase the market for malpractice as commercial insurers would have to shoulder less risk, and that in turn would improve the competitive environment. It would also make it easier for doctors to use self-insurance, risk retention groups (RRGs), fronted captives and other alternatives to commercial insurance (see next reform on RRGs). This change could come about without adoption of the first recommended change.

PROMOTE USE OF RRGs. The Risk Retention Group is a self-insurance device, which involves doctors banding together in non-profit groups to self-insure their coverage. It is a min-insurance company. The reduction of the primary requirement from $500,000 to $200,000, as suggested above, would make this approach easier to undertake. Although not mentioned in the MEMO, Reed recommends that a solvency fund be created to cover RRGs for medical malpractice. This was a recommendation he did make in testifying before the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce on February 10, 2003. Now RRGs are not so covered, and this means that doctors would have a dangerous exposure if the RRG would go under. With commercial insurance companies, there is a solvency fund back-up and if this were extended to RRGs, they would become more popular and could make a larger contribution to the solution of any problems in obtaining reasonably priced medical malpractice insurance. The MEMO estimates that some specialists could cut their premiums by 60 to70 percent with RRGs.

COMPRESS RATE SCHEDULE. Now there is incredible variation in premiums between so-called high-risk specialists and lower-risk categories of doctors. Premiums are so tailored to each category of doctors that the insurance function of spreading risk does not work as effectively as it might. Compressing rate schedules means that the differences between the highest and lowest risk categories would be reduced, thus lowering the burden on the higher risk specialties and spreading risk more evenly. The Memo says, if the lowest risk groups paid $1,000 more, the higher risks groups could be cut by up to l/3rd.

CONCLUSION. The MEMO has a good summary of what these recommended changes might do: “What now seems to be a looming crisis can be averted. All of the above options … will immediately reduce malpractice premiums to health care providers. Most importantly, they can accomplish that result without taking money from taxpayers, without triggering the additional expense of borrowing, without burdening future generations of health care providers, and without having to bar the door of the courthouse to those individuals having legitimate claims.”

When it comes to trade, chimps are far from venture capitalists. Our closest relatives almost always prefer a sure bet, according to a recent study, choosing value in hand over risk for higher returns. The finding brings us closer to understanding chimps’ trading habits and gives us precious insight into how trade, an essential cooperative behavior, works for humans.

To conduct the study, researchers started with two groups of chimps: one with little exposure to social and cognitive testing and no trading experience, and one with extensive bartering practice and language training. The scientists determined which food each chimp liked best. Then they assigned values to the foods. Finally, they taught the inexperienced chimps how to trade with tokens and food.

The results? When chimps possessing items of medium-high value, such as carrots, were offered high-value items, like grapes, they kept the lesser food. This tendency held true for both groups, despite different rearing histories, suggesting that their disinclination to barter is innate, says Sarah Brosnan of Georgia State University, the lead researcher in this study.

The chimps’ risk-averse behavior, Brosnan speculates, is attributable to a lack of language skills. “If one chimp could say to another, ‘OK, you crack nuts while I hunt meat, and then we’ll trade,’ they’d be able to specialize and have a developed economy,” Brosnan says. Because humans can specialize, she adds, we can generate surplus to purchase or barter for better foods from one another.

There's no other major item most of us own that is as confusing, unpredictable and unreliable as our personal computers. Everybody has questions about them, and we aim to help.

Here are a few questions about computers I've received recently from people like you, and my answers. I have edited and restated the questions a bit, for readability.

Q. I have moved from a PC to the iMac. In the Windows environment, I felt a need to run utilities to clean out the registry and defragment the hard disk frequently. Is this also needed on the iMac? If so, what programs are recommended?

A. The Mac operating system, called OS X Leopard, doesn't include a registry, which is a feature of Windows that holds information that programs need to operate properly. So there's no need to clean or maintain any registry on a Mac.

Mac hard disks, like those on Windows computers, can get fragmented -- a condition in which parts of files are so scattered around on the disk that the disk runs slowly. However, the operating system has some under-the-covers features that generally obviate the need to run a defragmentation utility. In fact, Apple, which calls defragmenting a disk "optimizing" it, flatly claims that "You probably won't need to optimize at all if you use Mac OS X." There are some Mac defragmentation utilities, but I don't believe you will need them unless you have large numbers of extremely large files and almost no free disk space.

Q. My son's computer frequently gets infected with adware, pop-ups. Recently it was hit with a continuing pop-up ad called VirusHeat that touted itself as a solution to the computer's problems. When I paid for VirusHeat, the problems went away. Is it legitimate?

A. According to numerous reports on the Web, including some from security companies, VirusHeat is a form of malicious or misleading software. It falls into a category that attempts to scare people into thinking their computers are badly infected, or exaggerates any problems you may have. This is a common tactic now used by creators of malware.

Some of these fake or misleading "security programs" may be designed merely to make you pay. Others may even be designed to install the very kinds of viruses, spyware or adware that they claim to fight.

Q. I have updated to a new PC. My data are on a floppy disc. There is no floppy disc drive on this new computer. How can I transfer my data?

A. For around $25, you can buy an external floppy disk drive that plugs into a new PC using its standard USB port. If you do so, and connect it to the new PC, you should be able to copy your data to the new computer's hard disk.

Ohio AG Marc Dann has resigned amid the scandal of a sexual harassment investigation in his office and his extramarital affair. Dann, 46, led the state on a 10-day odyssey, at first refusing to resign despite demands by Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland and others within his party, a growing number of investigations into conduct at his office, and the filing Tuesday of articles of impeachment against him. (Find past LB coverage of the Dann scandal here and here.)

Two Fridays ago, Dann admitted to a “romantic relationship” with a member of his staff, prompting Democratic leaders such as Governor Ted Strickland to call for his Dann’s head. But despite a letter that Strickland and others sent to Dann, arguing that he’d lost “even the most remote hope” of continuing to serve effectively as AG, Dann told his staff that he was optimistic about plans to stay in office despite an impeachment threat. “I think that there is a great chance that we can continue to do great work for the people of the state.”

The great work that Dann, who was elected to his first term in 2006, referred to may have been his crusade against ratings agencies and his pursuit of mortgage lenders and brokers for allegedly inflating home prices and contributing to the subprime crisis. Click here for a past WSJ profile of Dann, titled “The Mortgage Cop.”

But yesterday, when Ohio democrats sprung into action, filing articles of impeachment against Dann, he appeared to lose his mettle. What followed was 24 hours of speculation that Dann would resign.

How would you like to carry around your entire DVD collection on a single disk? That is the promise of a new holo–graphic digital storage technology being developed by General Electric and coming to a computer near you around 2012. Although not the first commercial holographic storage system—that honor goes to InPhase Technologies’ Tapestry™ 300r holographic drive—GE’s system could be the first one aimed at consumers. (InPhase’s holographic drives, which debuted last year, sell for $18,000 and target broadcasters who need to archive television programs.)

Holographic media can store huge amounts of data because information is encoded in layers throughout the entire disk, not just on a single reflective surface as in today’s optical media. In GE’s system, a single CD-size disk made of plastic will be able to store about 1 terabyte of data, equivalent to 110 typical movie DVDs.
Louis J. Sheehan Esquire
This kind of capacity would make it possible to back up all your music, photos, home movies, and e-mails in one place; it would also allow for totally new, extremely data-intensive applications, such as Micro–soft’s MyLifeBits project, which aims to capture in digital form every–thing that happens in an individual’s life. Besides automatically archiving and indexing things like e-mails and text documents, the project includes a wearable camera that snaps a picture at least once every 30 seconds, creating a visual index of every day.

To store data holographically, a laser beam (1) is split in two (2). One half of the beam passes through an array of hundreds of thousands of gates (3). Each gate can be opened or closed to represent a binary 1 or 0. The gates either block or pass the beam, filtering it into a coded pattern, or signal. The other half of the beam, known as the reference beam, is bounced off a mirror (4), so that the reference beam and the signal beam encoded with digital information intersect somewhere within the plastic storage medium (5). Light waves from the two beams interfere with each other, imprinting into the plastic a hologram—a three-dimensional pattern. By varying the angle of the mirror, millions of holograms can be created in the same piece of plastic. To read data from storage, the reference beam alone is used to illuminate the hologram. The resulting image can be read by a sensor and converted back into 1s and 0s.

Contrary to public opinion, salted nuts aren't necessarily high in sodium. Because salt is present on the surface of the nut, it's tasted immediately. In actuality, a 1-ounce serving (or 49 kernels) of pistachios only contains 5% DV of sodium. As an option, raw pistachios are sodium free.

A good snack can be part of a healthy eating plan by helping stabilize blood sugar, satisfy hunger between meals, supply extra nutrients including fiber, and keep energy levels high and your mind alert.

Naturally trans-fat and cholesterol-free, and one of the lowest calorie, lowest fat nuts, pistachios make an ideal snack choice. Tasty and delicious, pistachios are the most nutrient dense nut, offering a good source of eight important nutrients including thiamin, vitamin B6, copper, manganese, potassium, fiber, phosphorus and magnesium.
Also, among snack nuts, pistachios contain the highest amounts of polyphenol antioxidants. While the role of antioxidants is still unknown, research suggests that a diet of foods containing antioxidants is smart eating.

Pistachios help your heart in four ways. First, most of the fat found in pistachios is "good" unsaturated fat, which can lower blood cholesterol and the risk of heart disease when replacing saturated fat in the diet. Second, pistachios offer the highest levels of cholesterol-busting phytosterols among snack nuts, and are a good source of fiber, both of which reduce the absorption of cholesterol from the diet. Also, among snack nuts, pistachios are the highest in polyphenols, antioxidants with potential heart health benefits6. Finally, pistachios offer potassium. An inadequate intake of potassium is characterized by increased blood pressure and may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

You'll also find pistachios included in the FDA's first ever qualified health claim for conventional food, which states: "Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as pistachios, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease."

Your body needs fat to function. But the wrong kind - saturated fat - can raise cholesterol levels increasing the risk of heart disease. Most of the fat found in pistachios - almost 90% - is "good" unsaturated fat. When unsaturated fats replace saturated fats - those found in meats, baked goods and full fat dairy products - they can help lower blood cholesterol along with the risk of heart disease.

Many nutritionists agree that, when eaten in moderation, good fats, along with protein, helps dieters feel full longer. It's also good to know that because pistachios are dry roasted, they are naturally trans-fat free. According to the American Heart Association, trans-fats raise total blood cholesterol levels and LDL ("bad") cholesterol and lower HDL ("good") cholesterol levels; in turn increasing the risk of coronary heart disease and increases the risk of stroke.

Pistachios make a superior snack choice for dieters. One reason is that they are nutrient dense - good news when every calorie counts. Also, many experts believe that because pistachios have both protein and fiber they help you feel full for longer - so you eat less at your next meal. One such expert is Tanya Zuckerbrot, registered dietitian, mother of three and author of the "F Factor Diet: Discovering the Secret to Permanent Weight Loss," who recommends foods containing fiber, such as pistachios, to help weight loss.

Did you know that most Americans fall short of the recommended daily amount for fiber? Fiber is important because it aids digestion, promotes satiety and helps maintain a healthy body weight. Tanya recommends a handful of delicious pistachios as a morning or afternoon snack as an easy way to add an extra 3 grams or more of natural fiber to your diet along with protein.

You may be surprised to know that nut consumption, in general, is associated with a lower body mass index and has not been shown to cause gain. In fact, many popular diet plans including DASH Diet, Mediterranean Diet, Weight Watchers and the USDA Food Pyramid, highlight nuts in their healthy eating plans. Some even believe that the simple act of shelling a pistachio may have the added benefit of slowing down consumption time.

Herb Denenberg has been an investigative and consumer reporter and columnist for over 25 years. Before that he served as Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner, Pennsylvania Public Utility Commissioner, and Professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

He was the consumer and investigative reporter for the CBS and then the NBC TV station in Philadelphia for 25 years, and more recently served in that capacity at the Harron Cable Update and the Adelphia Cable update, both nightly newscasts, and for the Tri-State Media All-News Cable Network. He is also a columnist for a group of papers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and appears as an expert witness cases against insurance companies involving bad faith denial of claims and other matters.

He is now an adjunct professor of information science and technology at Cabrini College. He has also served as an assistant professor of insurance at the University of Iowa and a professor of law at Temple University.

He has won hundreds of awards for his media work, including 40 Emmys, the Consumer Service Award of the Consumer Federation of American, the Award of Achievement from the American Board of Trial Advocates, an award for the best in consumer journalism from the National Press Club and a Lambert Award for contributions to the health care delivery system.
During Denenberg's tenure as Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner, Ralph Nader wrote, "He's clearly the most consumer-oriented insurance commissioner in American history." As a result of the health care reforms he implemented as Commissioner, he was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. His motto as Insurance Commissioner, was "Populus Iamdudam Defutatus Est" which translated from the Latin is "The Consumer Has Been Screwed Long Enough."

Denenberg is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University (B.S.), Creighton University School of Law (J.D.), Harvard University School of Law (LL.M.), and the University of Pennsylvania (Ph.D.). He also received two honorary degrees, a Doctor of Humane Letters from Spring Garden College and a Doctor of Laws from Allentown College. He is a CPCU (Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriter) and a CLU (Chartered Life Underwriter).

For three years he served in the Judge Advocate General's Corps of the U.S. Army as a first lieutenant and and was a captain in the reserves.

He is the author of seven books and hundreds of articles on insurance, law, and consumer affairs. He has testified many times before Congressional committees, state legislative committees, and the City Council of Philadelphia.

He has served on the board of Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports, and is now on the board of the Sapio Institute (on interactive learning) and the Center for Proper Medication Use. He served as President of the American Risk and Insurance Association. He recently authored a Shopper's Guide to Herbal Medicine, published by the Center, and a more complete version of that guide which is to appear on their Web Site at

Denenberg has served as consultant to the US Department of Labor, the US Small Business Administration, the National Commission on Product Safety, the FTC, the US Department of Justice, the US Department of Transportation, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Philadelphia School Board, the State of Alaska and Nevada, the United States Commission on Civil Rights, and other government agencies. He was special counsel and research director of the President's National Advisory Panel on Insurance in Riot-Affected Areas; associate director of the Wisconsin Legislature's Law Revision Committee, special counsel to the Mayor of Washington D.C., and general counsel of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. He was a co-author of the first no-fault law passed in a United States jurisdiction (the Social Protection Plan of Puerto Rico). He also instituted a long list of fundamental reforms as Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner.

Denenberg has an entry in Who's Who in America, Who's Who In Insurance, Who's Who in Health Care, Who's Who in Science and Engineering, Current Biography, American Men of Science, Who's Who In World Jewry and other standard biographical reference. His biography, authored by Howard Shapiro, is entitled "How to Keep Them Honest" and was published by Rodale Press.

1 oz serving size of pistachios, about 30 grams shelled, yields about 160 calories. That measures out to be about 49 kernels per ounce - which can make for a very satisfying snack.
Pistachios are naturally low in carbohydrates and rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), making them a perfect snack for diabetics following recommended dietary guidelines. Clinical trials have found that diets following such guidelines help maintain blood sugar and insulin levels and reduce risk factors for heart disease, a consequence that accounts for greater than 65% of diabetic deaths. In fact, a 2007 study conducted at the University of Toronto showed that when pistachios are eaten with other high-carbohydrate foods, they slow absorption of carbohydrates into the body, resulting in lower-than-expected blood sugar levels. MUFA-rich foods of plant origins, such as pistachios, contain fiber, phytosterols and antioxidants, which confer a variety of cardiovascular benefits including glycemic control, improved lipid profiles, and reduced LDL oxidation.

It's important to know that the true prevalence of food allergy in the U.S. is not as great as the public perceives it to be. According to the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology (AAAI) estimates for 2006 suggest that food allergy of all types affects about 4% of the total population, with prevalence in children generally higher than that for adults. About 90% of food allergies in the US and in many other parts of the world derive from milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat and soy. Diagnosis of food allergy, including allergies to nuts, can be problematic because no single laboratory test available today can conclusively confirm that a person will exhibit clinical symptoms in response to consumption of a suspect food. For most people with food allergies, symptoms that occur after consuming the offending food are merely annoying such as a runny nose or itchy skin.

Tree nut allergies are rare in the general population. The best estimates available suggests that allergy to no single tree nut exceeds about .4% of the U.S. population, whereas separate estimates for peanuts suggest the prevalence is about 0.8 percent. If you're concerned about any food allergies, consult your physician.

A 1-oz serving of in-shell pistachios (about 30 grams or 1⁄2 cup), typically retails for about 30¢, a favorable comparison, price-wise, to popular salted snacks such as ready-to-eat popcorn. More importantly, however, you'll find that a handful of pistachios provides significant nutritional value and helps keep hunger satisfied.

You probably already know that junk snacks provide little nutritional value per calorie and can lead to obesity and a number of related illnesses.

When you consider food on a dollar per nutrient basis, healthy choices are not necessarily more expensive. In fact, while you may think you're saving money by choosing a processed "junk" snack, in the long run the choice may be more expensive. Consider the following:

Healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables and nuts are more satiating - so you feel fuller, longer. Plus they provide your body with vitamins, minerals, and nutrients needed to stay healthy. Pistachios offer good nutritional value: the most nutrient-dense tree nut*, pistachios are also among the highest fiber nuts, and also offer the highest amounts of phytosterols and antioxidants. One of the lowest calorie, lowest fat nuts, pistachios are also fun to eat.

And for those people with moderately high cholesterol levels, studies show that a snack of pistachios, when used as a replacement for high-fat snacks, can cut both total and "bad" LDL cholesterol while offering cardioprotective nutrients such as magnesium, potassium and copper. news for heart health!

Many people are surprised to learn that studies show pistachios actually help lower cholesterol. That's because almost 90% of the fat in pistachios is unsaturated (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats), which can reduce blood cholesterol levels when they replace saturated fats in the diet. In addition to offering heart healthy unsaturated fats, pistachios provide important antioxidants and amino acids that reduce the risk of heart disease. And among nuts, pistachios have the highest content of phytosterols, a plant sterol shown to reduce cholesterol absorption from other foods.

microkernel family.

Pistachio nuts, dry roasted, w/o salt
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 570 kcal 2390 kJ
Carbohydrates 27.65 g
- Sugars 7.81 g
- Dietary fiber 10.3 g
Fat 45.97 g
Protein 21.35 g
Thiamin (Vit. B1) 0.84 mg 65%
Riboflavin (Vit. B2) 0.158 mg 11%
Niacin (Vit. B3) 1.425 mg 10%
Pantothenic acid (B5) 0.513 mg 10%
Vitamin B6 1.274 mg 98%
Folate (Vit. B9) 50 μg 13%
Vitamin C 2.3 mg 4%
Calcium 110 mg 11%
Iron 4.2 mg 34%
Magnesium 120 mg 32%
Phosphorus 485 mg 69%
Potassium 1042 mg 22%
Zinc 2.3 mg 23%
Manganese 1.275 mg
Percentages are relative to US
recommendations for adults.
Source: USDA Nutrient database

The pistachio (Pistacia vera L., Anacardiaceae; sometimes placed in Pistaciaceae) is a small tree up to 10 m tall, native to mountainous regions of Iran, Turkmenistan and western Afghanistan. It has deciduous pinnate leaves 10–20 cm long.

The plants are dioecious, with separate male and female trees. The flowers are apetalous and unisexual, and borne in panicles. The fruit is a drupe, containing an elongated seed (a nut in the culinary sense, but not a true botanical nut) with a hard, whitish shell and a striking kernel which has a mauvish skin and light green flesh, with a distinctive flavour.

When the fruit ripens, the husk changes from green to an autumnal yellow/red and the shells split partially open (see photo). This is known as dehiscence, and happens with an audible pop.

Each pistachio nut weighs around 1 gram, and each pistachio tree averages around 50 kg of nuts, or around 50,000, every two years. Pistachios (as part of the pistacia genus) have existed for about 80 million years

P. vera) was first cultivated in Western Asia. It reached the Mediterranean world by way of central Iran, where it has long been an important crop. Although known to the Romans, the pistachio nut appears not to have reached the Mediterranean or most of the Near East in any quantity before medieval times.
The kernels are often eaten whole, either fresh or roasted and salted, and are also used in ice cream and confections such as baklava. In July 2003, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first qualified health claim specific to nuts lowering the risk of heart disease: "Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces (42.5g) per day of most nuts, such as pistachios, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease". In research at Pennsylvania State University, pistachios in particular significantly reduced levels of LDL, the 'bad' cholesterol, in the blood of volunteers. Pennsylvania State University's Department of Nutrition and Sciences has also conducted related research on other health benefits of pistachios, including an April 2007 study concluding that pistachios may calm acute stress reaction,and a June 2007 study on the cardiovascular health benefits of eating pistachios.
On the Greek island of Chios, the husk or flesh of the pistachio fruit surrounding the shell is cooked and preserved in syrup.

The shell of the pistachio is naturally a beige colour, but it is sometimes dyed red or green in commercial pistachios. Originally the dye was applied by importers to hide stains on the shells caused when the nuts were picked by hand. However most pistachios are now picked by machine and the shells remain unstained, making dyeing unnecessary (except that some consumers have been led to expect coloured pistachios). Roasted pistachio nuts can be artificially turned red if they are marinated prior to roasting in a salt and strawberry marinade, or salt and citrus salts.

The trees are planted in orchards, and take approximately seven to ten years to reach significant production. Production is alternate bearing or biennial bearing, meaning the harvest is heavier in alternate years. Peak production is reached at approximately 20 years. Trees are usually pruned to size to make the harvest easier. One male tree produces enough pollen for eight to twelve nut-bearing females. Pistachio orchards can be damaged by the fungal disease Botryosphaeria panicle and shoot blight, which kills the flowers and young shoots.

Pistachio trees are fairly hardy in the right conditions, and can survive temperature ranges between -10°C (14°F) in winter to 40°C (104°F) in summer. They need a sunny position and well-drained soil. Pistachio trees do poorly in conditions of high humidity, and are susceptible to root rot in winter if they get too much water and the soil is not sufficiently free draining. Long hot summers are required for proper ripening of the fruit.

Pistachio nuts are highly flammable when stored in large quantities, and are prone to self heating and spontaneous combustion.

Share of a total 2005 worldwide production of 501 thousand metric tonnes:
Country Production
Iran 190 000
U.S. 140 000
Turkey 60 000
Syria 60 000
China 34 000
Greece 9 500
Italy 2 400
Uzbekistan 1 000
Tunisia 800
Pakistan 200
Madagascar 160
Kyrgyzstan 100
Morocco 50
Cyprus 15
Mexico 7
Mauritius 5

California produces almost all U.S. pistachios, and about half of these are exported, mainly to China, Japan, Europe and Canada. Almost all California pistachios are of the cultivar 'Kerman'. The tree is grafted to a rootstock when the rootstock is one year old. Only a few years after California growers started growing pistachios, the 1979 crisis in Iran would give stronger commercial impetus to the American-based pistachio nut industry. Previous to that time, most Westerners were familiar with only the slightly smaller, deeply red-hued (dyed) nuts produced mainly in Iran, where it is the second largest export after oil.

So late to be “discovered” by the rest of the world—Henry Stanley made the continent's first crossing only in 1877—Africa, it can be forgotten, is probably the cradle of humanity. Palaeoanthropologists, archaeologists and, more recently, geneticists have all bolstered the “out of Africa” theory, which holds that early man wandered out of the Rift Valley. Yet little is known of pre-colonial African cultures. Some vanished out of history, along with their languages and beliefs, before they ever came to be named. That is one reason why Africa's rock art is so precious. The faintest ochre scratches of prehistoric antelope in a cave open a rare window into Africa's—and humanity's—distant past.

Africa may have 200,000 rock-art sites, more than any other continent. The oldest known site, in Namibia, is between 18,000 and 28,000 years old. Several African universities now have programmes to decipher the paintings and carvings. They are being helped by the Kenya-based Trust for African Rock Art (TARA), which seeks to discover and digitally archive as much of the art as it can for future scholars.

The best is in the Sahara desert, particularly in Niger's Air mountains, in the Tibesti mountains of northern Chad and southern Libya, and in south-east Algeria's Tassili n'Ajjer range. Such desert sites are too remote to be damaged by graffiti, though wars involving the local Tuareg have resulted in some being shot up or smashed apart for sale to foreign collectors. David Coulson, one of TARA's founders, raves about a recent find in the Tassili n'Ajjer range: an anatomically perfect four-metre-long carving of a hippo hunted by an Egyptian-looking figure with a superbly sinuous bow. This in a region that dried up several thousand years ago.

Elsewhere in Africa, rock art often chronicles the hunting magic of Bushmen and Pygmies. Not much rock art survives in western Africa, and in eastern and central parts of the continent more recent but still invaluable paintings have been poorly preserved.

But there is progress. Locals are being encouraged to see the value of showing off their sites to tourists. National museums are being overhauled, with new displays of lost peoples. New history textbooks may follow. New finds are being made. A sensational discovery in a cave in Kenya is being kept under wraps until it can be properly dated.

Some think African rock art should provide a pan-African rallying point, free of politics or religion. A rich rock-art heritage could connect Libya and South Africa, two of the African Union's biggest backers, which sometimes struggle to find anything in common. Kofi Annan, a former UN secretary-general, is a big rock-art fan. He reckons it represents nothing less than the earliest record of the human imagination.

First, ask yourself how hungry you are, on a scale of 1 (ravenous) to 7 (stuffed).

Next, take time to appreciate the food on your plate. Notice the colors and textures.

Take a bite. Slowly experience the tastes on your tongue. Put down your fork and savor.

"Most people don't think about what they're eating -- they're focusing on the next bite," says Sasha Loring, a psychotherapist at Duke Integrative Medicine, part of Duke University Health System here. "I've worked with lots of obese people -- you'd think they'd enjoy food. But a lot of them say they haven't really tasted what they've been shoveling down for years."

Over lunch, Ms. Loring is teaching me how to eat mindfully -- paying attention to what you eat and stopping just before you're full, ideally about 51⁄2 on that 7-point scale. Many past diet plans have stressed not overeating. What's different about mindful eating is the paradoxical concept that eating just a few mouthfuls, and savoring the experience, can be far more satisfying than eating an entire cake mindlessly.

• Assess how hungry you are.
• Eat slowly; savor your food.
• Put your fork down and breathe between bites.
• Notice taste satiety.
• Check back on your hunger level.
• Stop when you start to feel full.
Source: Duke Integrative Medicine

For more information on mindful eating
• "Mindless Eating" by Brian Wansink
• "Eating Mindfully" by Susan Albers
• "The Zen of Eating" by Ronna Kabatznick

It sounds so simple, but it takes discipline and practice. It's a far cry from the mindless way many of us eat while walking, working or watching TV, stopping only when the plate is clean or the show is over.

It's also a mind-blowing experience: I'm full and completely satisfied after three mindful bites.

The approach, which has roots in Buddhism, is being studied at several academic medical centers and the National Institutes of Health as a way to combat eating disorders. In a randomized controlled trial at Duke and Indiana State University, binge eaters who participated in a nine-week mindful-eating program went from binging an average of four times a week to once, and reduced their levels of insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes. More NIH-funded trials are under way to study whether mindful eating is effective for weight loss, and for helping people who have lost weight keep it off.

One key aspect is to approach food nonjudgmentally. Many people bring a host of negative emotions to the table -- from guilt about blowing a diet to childhood fears of deprivation or wastefulness. "I joke with my clients that if I could put a microphone in their heads and broadcast what they're saying to themselves when they eat, the FCC would have to bleep it out," says Megrette Fletcher, executive director of the Center for Mindful Eating, a Web-based forum for health-care professionals.

Using food as a reward or as solace also interferes with eating mindfully; if you're eating to satisfy emotional hunger, it's hard to ever feel full. "Ask yourself, what do you really need and what else can you do it fulfill it?" says Ms. Loring.

Have you had learned to eat consciously? Has it changed your life? If not, does it sound like something you'd like to try? Share your thoughts.

Chronic dieters in particular have trouble recognizing their internal cues, says Jean Kristeller, a psychologist at Indiana State, who pioneered mindful eating in the 1990s. "Diets set up rules around food and disconnect people even further from their own experiences of hunger and satiety and fullness," she says.

Mindful eaters learn to assess taste satiety. A hunger for something sweet or sour or salty can often be satisfied with a small morsel. In one exercise, Ms. Kristeller has clients mindfully eat a single raisin -- noticing their thoughts and emotions, as well as the taste and texture. "It sounds somewhat silly," she explains, "but it can also be very profound."
Mindful eating also means learning to ignore urges to snack that aren't connected to hunger. And it's critical to leave food on your plate once you are full; pack it to go, if possible.

In contrast to other diet programs, the researchers involved with mindful eating avoid making weight-loss claims; that's still being investigated. But some practitioners say it's life-changing.

"I don't think about food anymore. It's totally out of my mind," says Mary Ann Power, age 50, of Pittsboro, N.C., a lifelong dieter who thinks she's lost eight or 10 pounds in two weeks since learning the practice at Duke. "I think you could put a piece of chocolate cake in front of my nose right now, and it wouldn't tempt me. Before, I could eat three pieces."

One mindful meal at Duke made a big impression on me -- I was satisfied with minimal meals for days afterward. But it's hard to sustain. I find myself eating mindlessly again in front of the TV, or at the computer.

"Try to eat one meal or one snack mindfully every day," advises Jeffrey Greeson, a psychologist with the Duke program. "Even eating just the first few bites mindfully can help break the cycle of wolfing it down without paying any attention."

For thirteen centuries, between 1200 B.C. and the second century A.D., the Jews lived in, and often ruled, the land of Israel. The population was clustered mainly in Judaea, Samaria, and Galilee. The Jews’ dominion was long but not eternal. The Romans invaded and, after suppressing revolts in A.D. 66-73 and 132-135, killed or expelled much of the Jewish population and renamed the land Palaestina, for the Philistines who had lived along the southern seacoast. After the conquest, some Jews stayed behind, and the faith of the Hebrews remained a religio licita, a tolerated religion, throughout the Roman Empire.

By the nineteenth century, Palestine had been ruled by Romans, Persians, Byzantines, Arabs, Christian Crusaders, and Ottoman Turks. When Mark Twain visited in 1867, his imagination soaked with the Biblical imagery of milk and honey, he discovered to his surprise “a hopeless, dreary, heartbroken land . . . desolate and unlovely.” Jericho was “accursed,” Jerusalem “a pauper village.” Twain’s passages on Palestine in “The Innocents Abroad” have, over the decades, been exploited by propagandists to echo Lord Shaftesbury’s notion that, before the return of the Jews to Zion, Palestine was a land without a people for a people without a land. Twain and Shaftesbury, as it turned out, were hardly alone in failing to recognize a substantial Arab population in the Judaean hills and beyond.

And yet nineteenth-century Palestine certainly was desolate and impoverished. The population in 1881 consisted of four hundred and fifty thousand Palestinian Arabs and twenty-five thousand Jews, nearly all of them ultra-Orthodox non-nationalists living in Jerusalem, Hebron, Safed, and Tiberias. Palestine, despite its importance to the three monotheistic religions, was a political backwater. The Ottomans divided the land into sanjaks, or districts, which were ruled from Constantinople, Damascus, and Beirut. It was at this time, however, that European Jews—poor, mainly secular, and feeling the onset of an intensified anti-Semitism in their countries of origin—began to emigrate to Palestine. This was the First Aliyah, or ascent. Most European Jewish emigrants headed to North America and Great Britain, but some, in small numbers at first, sailed to Palestine. The local Ottoman bureaucrats were strapped for cash, and the new arrivals had little problem obtaining entry rights, agricultural plots, and building permits. This was colonialism not by conquering armies but by persistent real-estate transactions—and, when necessary, baksheesh.

The plans of the early Jewish settlers were unambiguous, even if they seemed, at the time, wholly incredible. As one early Zionist, Ze’ev Dubnow, wrote to his brother Simon, “The ultimate goal . . . is, in time, to take over the Land of Israel and to restore to the Jews the political independence they have been deprived of for these two thousand years. . . . The Jews will yet arise and, arms in hand (if need be), declare that they are the masters of their ancient homeland.”

In the midst of this first wave of immigration, Zionism found its chief tribune, dreamer, and theorist in Theodor Herzl. A mediocre playwright and the Paris correspondent for a liberal Viennese daily newspaper, Neue Freie Presse, Herzl witnessed the Dreyfus trial in 1894 and the appalling anti-Jewish demonstrations that followed. In the four-volume “History of Anti-Semitism,” Léon Poliakov writes that in the last decades before the First World War it was “hard to determine whether the French Jews or the German Jews were the more fervently patriotic.” But Herzl concluded that if anti-Semitism was as pervasive in the capitals of the European Enlightenment as it was in tsarist Russia there was no hope for assimilation. He was thoroughly secular and had no real Jewish learning. He spoke neither Yiddish nor Hebrew. (Indeed, the pathos of his conversion to Zionism lay in his devotion both to Vienna and to German culture, and in the degree to which events in Europe would, with the rise of the Third Reich, surpass his darkest predictions.)

When Herzl published “Der Judenstaat” (“The Jewish State”), in 1896, the book seemed to most readers as utopian as Bacon’s “New Atlantis.” As portrayed in Amos Elon’s wonderful 1975 biography, Herzl was an almost comically quixotic figure—the bearded café intellectual with his historical dreams travelling the world, trying (and failing) to win financial support from the Rothschilds and political support from the Kaiser and the Ottoman sultan. And yet the Zionist movement, with Herzl at its center, took hold, and in 1897, at the First Zionist Congress, in Basel, Switzerland, a motley collection of Jewish intellectuals and political activists voted to establish a Heimstätte, a “publicly and legally secured home,” for the Jews in Palestine.
Although the delegates surely had a sovereign state in mind, they were careful in these early days not to use such terms, so as not to alarm the Gentiles or offend any Jewish grandees who might eventually decide to fund their project.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Palestinian Arabs identified themselves not as a unified people but as subjects of the Ottoman Empire and of the greater community of Islam; their local identities were tied to their villages, clans, and families. Resistance to the earliest wave of Jewish immigration was apparent, but it was polite compared to what came later. In 1899, the mayor of Jerusalem, Yusuf Dia al-Khalidi, wrote to Zadok Kahn, the chief rabbi of France, saying that the Zionist idea was in theory “natural, fine, and just. . . . Who can challenge the rights of the Jews to Palestine? Good lord, historically it is really your country.” But, like other Palestinian notables, he opposed Jewish immigration, because the land was inhabited and resistance would inevitably follow. “In the name of God, let Palestine be left in peace,” Khalidi wrote. Rabbi Kahn passed the letter on to Herzl, who blithely wrote to Khalidi to reassure him that the Zionists, with their wealth, their skills, and their education, would build an economy to benefit both Arab and Jew.

As the flow of immigration increased, so did the resistance, especially with the end of the First World War and the beginning of British control over Palestine, in 1917-18, and culminating in the 1936-39 Arab revolt against the Yishuv, the name for the pre-state Jewish community. The resistance took the form of demonstrations (some of them virulently anti-Semitic), riots, assaults, and bombings. The Palestinian leadership became more and more radicalized, and small clandestine groups were formed. In turn, radical Jewish factions and militias began to win support.

Where the Arabs were concerned, Herzl had been more oblivious than cruel. But the leader of the Yishuv, David Ben-Gurion, recognized the us-or-them nature of the conflict; he sensed the emotional force of his adversary’s position even as he fought for the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. Between 1931 and 1939, as Jewish emigration mounted, the Arab majority declined from eighty-two per cent to seventy per cent. “What Arab cannot do his math and understand that immigration at the rate of sixty thousand a year means a Jewish state in all of Palestine?” Ben-Gurion stated. As he confessed years later to the Zionist Nahum Goldmann, “Why should the Arabs make peace? . . . We have taken their country. Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs. We come from Israel, it’s true, but two thousand years ago, and what is that to them?”

Among Arab clerics, kings, and diplomats, the view of the Jews hardened into a maximalist politics, at once threatened and threatening. In 1943, when Franklin Roosevelt sent out feelers to King Ibn Sa’ud of Saudi Arabia to solve the Palestine situation, the King responded that he was “prepared to receive anyone of any religion except (repeat except) a Jew.” In a letter to F.D.R., he wrote, “Palestine . . . has been an Arab country since the dawn of history and . . . was never inhabited by the Jews for more than a period of time, during which their history in the land was full of murder and cruelty.” In 1947, Jordan’s prime minister, Samir Rifa’i, hardly the most radical politician in the region, told reporters, “The Jews are a people to be feared. . . . Give them another twenty-five years and they will be all over the Middle East, in our country and Syria and Lebanon, in Iraq and Egypt. . . . They were responsible for starting two world wars. . . . Yes, I have read and studied, and I know they were behind Hitler at the beginning of his movement.”

What followed was a drama of redemptive, liberating settlement on one side and catastrophic dispossession on the other—all of it taking place on a patch of desert land too small for easy division and too imbued with historical and holy claims for rational negotiation. For the Jews in Palestine, Zionism was a movement of national liberation after untold suffering; for the Arabs, Zionism was an intolerable assault by the colonial West against sacred ground and Islam itself. Even now, more than a century later, politicians and scholars alike quickly betray prejudices, passions, and allegiances in the details they select when relating the saga that led to the U.N. Partition Plan, on November 29, 1947, and the war that began just hours later.

In Soviet-era Russia, honest young men and women of academic inclination knew never to enter the field of modern history. In order to live a scholarly life relatively free of cant and suppression, one studied Byzantine manuscripts, Mayan civilization, medieval Burma—anything that would safely skirt mention of one’s own time and place. In the new society of Israel, however noisily democratic, national history is inescapably political, too. And, like any young nation, especially one born of conflict, Israel did not readily accept scholarly work that challenged its most cherished national myths. Self-doubt, complexity, and reflection are not the modes of infancy; in any country, mythmaking precedes documentary rigor. For nearly forty years, Israeli histories and textbooks, with few exceptions, endorsed the notion that the more than seven hundred thousand Arabs who left Palestine as refugees in the years between 1947 and 1950 did so voluntarily or at the urging of their leaders.
This was a view echoed abroad by Leon Uris in his fantastically popular novel “Exodus”; Uris writes of “the absolutely documented fact that the Arab leaders wanted the civilian population to leave Palestine as a political issue and a military weapon.”

In the late eighties, Israel encountered its first revisionist historians, a group of rigorous young scholars intent on seeing clearly the founding and development of the state, come what may. At the head of that small and diverse movement was Benny Morris, a Sabra and a Cambridge-educated leftist, who, like Israel itself, was born in 1948. His latest book on that pivotal year of war and transformation, “1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War” (Yale; $32.50), is a commanding, superbly documented, and fair-minded study of the events that, in the wake of the Holocaust, gave a sovereign home to one people and dispossessed another. Remarkably, the book makes every attempt at depth and balance, even though its author has professed a “cosmic pessimism” about the current situation in the Middle East and has denounced the Palestinian leadership in the harshest terms imaginable.

Benny Morris’s family emigrated from Britain in 1947, and Morris grew up in the heart of a left-wing pioneering atmosphere. As an infant, he lived on Kibbutz Yasur, which had been established in 1949 on the ruins of the Arab village of Al Birwa, where the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish lived before going into exile. His father, Ya’akov Morris, was an Israeli diplomat and a published historian and poet.

In 1982, Morris experienced Mena-chem Begin and Ariel Sharon’s invasion of southern Lebanon, first as a correspondent for the Jerusalem Post, then as a soldier, when his division was called up and took part in the siege in West Beirut. As a reporter, he visited Rashidiye, a Palestinian refugee camp near Tyre, and interviewed refugees who had lived in the town of Al Bassa, in Galilee. When Morris returned home, he examined newly declassified papers in the Israel State Archive, along with documents in archives in the U.S. and Britain and at the United Nations. (Arab governments have made available very little archival material on the period.) His subject was the military conflict between the early Zionists and the Arabs and the subsequent exile of the Palestinians from their cities and towns.

In 1988, Morris published “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949,” which revolutionized Israeli historiography and, to a great extent, a nation’s understanding of its own birth. Relying less on testimony than on the newly available documents, Morris described how and why sixty per cent of the Palestinians were uprooted and their society destroyed. It was a far more complex picture than many Israelis were prepared to accept. The book features a map that shows three hundred and eighty-nine Arab villages, from upper Galilee to the Negev Desert. Morris revealed that in forty-nine of these villages the indigenous Arabs were expelled by the Haganah and other Jewish military forces; in sixty-two villages, the Arabs fled out of fear, having heard rumors of attacks and even massacres; in six, the villagers left at the instruction of Palestinian local leaders. The refugees, who probably expected to return to their homes in a matter of weeks or months, went to Gaza and the West Bank, and also to surrounding Arab countries—Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and Syria—where, to this day, they have never been fully absorbed.

Morris’s aim was not simply to invert the standard Zionist narrative. He provided a stark picture of the anti-Semitism that infected the Arab leadership, including the influential mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Muhammad Amin al-Husseini, who refused any compromise with the Zionists and, in the forties, promoted anti-Jewish propaganda from Berlin and recruited Bosnian Muslims for the S.S. Morris quoted the many leaders among the Palestinians and the Arab countries who vowed to eliminate the nascent state of Israel and force the European Jewish arrivals back to where they came from. But he also wrote at length about acts of wartime cruelty committed by the Jewish victors against the Palestinians. He counted about a dozen documented cases of Israelis raping Palestinian women but concluded that more likely went unrecorded. He said that there were about two dozen acts of massacre, some involving four or five executions but others involving many more, at Saliha, Deir Yassin, Lydda, and Dawayima.
Morris wrote that, although the leader of the Jewish forces, David Ben-Gurion, did not give explicit orders to expel Palestinians from their villages and urban neighborhoods, he was, from April, 1948, onward, projecting a message of transfer, an “atmosphere” in which, for example, a young commander, Yitzhak Rabin, could sign an order to expel the Arabs from Lydda just after receiving a visit from Ben-Gurion. “He understood there could be no Jewish state with a large and hostile Arab minority in its midst,” Morris has said.

“The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949” was the most important text in that first wave of Israeli revisionism. (Other “new historians,” as Morris dubbed his generation of like-minded scholars, included Ilan Pappe, Avi Shlaim, and Tom Segev.) The book was published at the height of the first intifada, a Palestinian uprising in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip led by young people throwing stones at Israeli troops. Morris supported the intifada as a legitimate expression of outrage against the occupation. When his Army unit was called up for service in the West Bank city of Nablus, he refused to go and spent three weeks in jail.

Morris went unrewarded for his independence. Although his book received serious attention in Israel and abroad, he could not get a university job. In 1996, he announced in the press that he planned to leave the country.

When the interview was published, Ezer Weizman, a key military figure in the 1948 war and the President of Israel, summoned Morris to his office and asked if he supported Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. Morris, who considered himself a liberal Zionist, said that he did. Weizman called the president of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, in Be’er Sheva, and, a year later, after passing through the usual academic checkpoints, Morris began his career there as a professor of history.

Between 1993 and 1998, amid the optimism of the Oslo Accords and the possibility that the century-long conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinian Arabs might be coming to a negotiated end, Morris worked on a comprehensive survey of the confrontation. The title, “Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001,” attests to the book’s historical and imaginative sympathy both for the Zionists, who acquired a homeland but never a sense of security, and for the Palestinians, whose demand for a homeland remained unsatisfied. Like all Morris’s work, the book does not pretend to some sort of absolute objectivity—he has been attacked from every side over the years—but its attempt at balance is obvious: where there is anti-Arab racism among the Zionist forefathers, it is quoted; where there is venality among the early Palestinian leadership, it, too, is pointed out. The epitaph to “Righteous Victims” is the famous passage from Auden’s “September 1, 1939” that speaks to the degrading costs of war and persecution: “I and the public know / What all schoolchildren learn, / Those to whom evil is done / Do evil in return.”

But, just as the Arab world’s rejection of the 1947 partition plan pushed Israeli leaders toward an even harsher view of their adversaries, Yasir Arafat’s rejection of the peace proposals proffered by Ehud Barak in 2000 at Camp David and at Taba, Egypt, coupled with the second intifada, which followed, disillusioned Benny Morris to the point of embitterment.
Morris, who has always voted for parties on the left, said that Arafat had “defrauded” the Israelis, and he decided that the Palestinians had no intention of forging a compromise. Morris was not at all persuaded by explanations and press reports claiming that Clinton and Barak had offered Arafat an unfair, hastily prepared deal. Even if Israel returned to its pre-1967 borders, Morris concluded, the Palestinians would consider that only a step in a “phased plan” to eliminate a “crusader state” from sacred Arab lands. After 2000, he said in a 2004 interview with Ha’aretz, “I understood that they were unwilling to accept the two-state solution. They want it all. Lod and Acre and Jaffa.” Morris did criticize the Israeli government for continuing to build on occupied territory, but, especially in his role as pundit and polemicist, he was no longer giving equal weight to two “righteous victims.”

In the Ha’aretz interview, Morris took a tone that was in scant evidence in his earlier journalism or scholarly work. He spoke of a “deep problem in Islam,” of a world in which “life doesn’t have the same value it does in the West.” The Arabs belonged to a “tribal culture” in which “revenge” played a “central part,” a society so lacking in “moral inhibitions” that “if it obtains chemical or biological or atomic weapons, it will use them.”

Morris was hardly the only Israeli liberal dispirited by Arafat’s behavior in 2000 and the suicide bombs and re-occupations that followed; nor was he alone in his gloom after September 11th. But his new language came as a shock. He described the Arab world as “barbarian,” and said that the Israeli massacres committed in 1947-48 were “peanuts” compared with those in Bosnia. Then, there was his call to build “something like a cage” for the Palestinians: “I know that sounds terrible. It is really cruel. But there is no other choice. There is a wild animal that has to be locked up in one way or another.” Upon reflection, even Morris was appalled by those words and later apologized.

To some extent, Morris has been writing the same book throughout his scholarly life, and one theme that has been pronounced is that of “transfer.” In all his work, he has explored the thorny question of whether or not Ben-Gurion and his colleagues explicitly endorsed a policy of “transferring”—exiling—the Arab population from Israel.

By the time of the 2004 Ha’aretz interview, Morris had adopted a harsher, more prescriptive tone that was sometimes chilling to the liberal audience that had first welcomed him. Fearing the loss of a Jewish majority and the rise of an Arab fifth column, some right-wing politicians have advocated transferring either the Palestinian Arabs or the Israeli Arabs, or both, to Jordan—a country they refer to as the true Palestinian state. (That was once a theme of Ariel Sharon’s.) Although Morris does not endorse such a policy—“It is neither moral nor realistic”—he does say that, historically speaking, BenGurion “faltered” in 1948. “If he was already engaged in expulsion, maybe he should have done a complete job,” he told Ha’aretz. “I know that this stuns the Arabs and the liberals and the politically correct types. But my feeling is that this place would be quieter and know less suffering if the matter had been resolved once and for all.” Morris acknowledged that ethnic cleansing was “problematic” but later pointed out catastrophic situations in which it could be “beneficial for humanity.” He cited the Turkish expulsion of the Greek minority, Greece’s expulsion of its Turkish minority after the First World War, and the expulsion of the Sudeten Germans from Czechoslovakia after the Second World War.

(His sanguine perspective is unlikely to have been shared by, say, the German survivors of the Brünner Todesmarsch, the Brno death march.)

Four years ago, Morris said that only “apocalyptic” circumstances would demand that Israel carry out a policy of transfer. By January, 2007, writing in the Jerusalem Post, he seemed convinced that apocalypse was around the corner. The United States has been driven to isolationism by its “debacle” in Iraq, Russia and China are “obsessed with Muslim markets,” and Israel, led by a “party hack of a prime minister,” who botched the war with Hezbollah in 2006, will now be “like a rabbit caught in the headlights” as Iran prepares to launch nuclear-tipped Shihab missiles at Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Be’er Sheva. In this scenario, which Morris implied is nearly inevitable, the Israeli leadership knows that it cannot launch a unilateral attack on Iran, for fear of igniting a “world-embracing” terror campaign:

So Israel’s leaders will grit their teeth and hope that somehow things will turn out for the best. Perhaps, after acquiring the Bomb, the Iranians will behave “rationally”?
But the Iranians are driven by a higher logic. And they will launch their rockets. And, as with the first Holocaust, the international community will do nothing. It will all be over, for Israel, in a few minutes—not like in the 1940s, when the world had five long years in which to wring its hands and do nothing.

What is so striking about Morris’s work as a historian is that it does not flatter anyone’s prejudices, least of all his own. The stridency and darkness of some of his public pronouncements is not a feature of “Righteous Victims,” which is the most useful survey of the conflict, or of “1948,” which is the best history of the first Arab-Israeli wars. In “1948,” the assembled compendium of aspiration, folly, aggression, hypocrisy, deception, bigotry, violence, suffering, and achievement is so comprehensive and multilayered that no reader can emerge without a feeling of unease—which is to say, a sense of the moral and historical intricacy of the conflict.

One of the lingering mythologies that Morris set out to confront in “1948” is the iconography of strength and weakness, the competition between Jews and Palestinians for the role of underdog and chief victim. There were two wars following the U.N. partition resolution: first, the immediate Palestinian uprising against the Yishuv, and then, after the Palestinian defeat, the coördinated invasion by the armies of Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Jordan. Morris concludes that the Arabs were demographically and geopolitically stronger—the Palestinians outnumbered the Jews of the Yishuv two to one, and the surrounding Arab states had a population, all told, of forty million. But in the years leading to the war the Yishuv had organized political and military institutions that were suited to crisis. Troop call-ups, expert foreign military personnel, and weapons-procurement systems were in place. By contrast, very few Palestinians came from the Hebron, Ramallah, and Nablus areas to aid their fellow Palestinian Arabs in Jaffa, Haifa, Jerusalem, and the Jezreel and Jordan Valleys. “The Yishuv had fought not a ‘people,’ ” Morris concludes, “but an assortment of regions, towns, and villages.” the four Arab armies invaded, on May 15, 1948, they, too, were disorganized and—compared with the Jews, who were fighting for their survival—far less motivated.

About six thousand Jews and twelve thousand Palestinians died in the conflict; the Egyptians lost fourteen hundred men; the Iraqis, Jordanians, and Syrians lost several hundred each. Not long afterward, seven hundred thousand Palestinians were exiled from their homes, and the Jewish minorities in the Islamic world—in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Yemen, and Libya—experienced anti-Semitic demonstrations, pogroms, threats, internments, bomb attacks, synagogue fires. This, too, was a product of the war, and half a million Jews, the Sephardim, eventually left Islamic countries for Israel and, largely because of the circumstances of their exile, formed the Likud rank and file.

In his closing pages, Morris writes with rueful understanding and keen judgment of the consequences of his subject, the rise of a state that gave him a home while displacing so many others:

The war was a humiliation from which that world has yet to recover—the antithesis of the glory days of Arab Islamic dominance of the Middle East and the eastern and southern Mediterranean basins. The sense of humiliation only deepened over the succeeding sixty years as Israel visibly grew and prospered while repeatedly beating the Arabs in new wars, as the Palestinian refugee camps burst at the seams while sinking in the mire of international charity and terrorism, and as the Arab world shuttled between culturally self-effacing Westernization and religious fundamentalism.

Next month, the Israelis mark the sixtieth anniversary of their independence, the Palestinians the sixtieth anniversary of al-nakba, the catastrophe.

The history of the cocaine trade between Andean countries and the United States over the past 30 years shows that no sooner have police and customs officials become adept at spotting one smuggling method than the drug-traffickers come up with a new one. Light planes and commercial flights gave way to shipping containers. Where once cocaine was hidden in shipments of fresh vegetables and flowers, more recently it has been found in specially moulded furniture and concrete fencing posts.

But the latest method is especially cunning: home-made submarines. These first appeared a decade ago, but were considered by officials to be an oddity. Now it seems the traffickers have perfected the design and manufacture of semi-submersible craft (although they look like submarines, they don't fully submerge). In 2006, American officials say they detected only three; now they are spotting an average of ten a month.

Of those, only one in ten is intercepted. Many sail up the Pacific coast, often far out to sea. With enough cargo space to carry two to five tonnes of cocaine, they also carry large fuel tanks, giving them a range of 2,000 miles (3,200km). They are typically made of fibreglass, powered by a 300/350hp diesel engine and manned by a crew of four.
They normally unload their cargo onto fast power boats for the final leg to shore. None has been sighted unloading at ports or beaches.

One theory is that the switch to submarines is part of an effort by Colombian cocaine producers to win back from their Mexican rivals-cum-partners a bigger slice of the profits from drugs. In the 1990s most cocaine began to enter the United States across its southern land border, rather than across the Caribbean. That allowed Mexican gangs to oust Colombians from much of the lucrative retail-distribution business in American cities.

The latest innovation may mean that a claimed increase in the retail price of cocaine (up 44% between January and September according to the United States' Drug Enforcement Administration) could prove short-lived. The price rise may have stemmed from a crackdown by Mexico on its drug gangs, which has prompted murderous feuding between them. But many independent analysts reckon that cocaine consumption in the United States has remained more or less constant. John Walsh, of the Washington Office on Latin America, an NGO, says that four similar price increases in the 1980s and 1990s were quickly reversed.

Interdiction of cocaine shipments fell by 20% last year. Stopping the subs requires “wide-area surveillance systems, acoustics and better intelligence,” says Admiral James Stavridis, the head of the United States' Southern Command, based in Miami. Having shot drug planes out of the sky, and used army troops to destroy coca fields and laboratories, it seems that the drug warriors will have to move into anti-submarine warfare.

A disease that carries with it a social stigma causes additional and unnecessary suffering. This has often been so with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), or chronic-fatigue syndrome, as it is also known. Despite debilitating symptoms, patients have been accused of suffering from an imaginary illness: “yuppie flu”. Doctors have struggled to distinguish the ailing from the malingering. Nonetheless, evidence has grown in recent years that the syndrome is real, and now there is news that it has its roots in genetics.

ME manifests as extreme exhaustion, something that may include a range of other symptoms, such as disturbed sleep, difficulties in remembering and concentrating, headaches, and painful muscles and joints. Psychological symptoms, such as anxiety and irritability, can also be present. As the symptoms can vary in severity, the syndrome can be hard to identify, and patients can suffer for months before a diagnosis is made.

However, new hope for ME sufferers arrived this week at a conference in Cambridge, in Britain. The event, organised by ME Research UK and the Irish ME Trust, two charities that help to fund studies and assist sufferers, was attended by researchers investigating what causes the illness and how it could be treated.

Jonathan Kerr of St George's University of London told the meeting that with his colleagues they have identified 88 genes which are expressed differently in the blood of patients who had been diagnosed with ME.
Moreover, in studying the records of 55 patients with ME, they found that they could divide them into seven separate sub-types that consistently pair distinct genetic patterns with a combination and severity of patients' symptoms. This, says Dr Kerr, points to a biological basis for the illness and holds out hope that a blood test could be developed to identify its different forms. His group are now trying to find the biological markers that such a blood test would need to detect.
ME, myself, why?

One tactic for dealing with ME is to treat its symptoms with drugs that are already used against other diseases. Patients with some of the severest symptoms suffer from low blood pressure and have difficulty regulating their heartbeat. Julia Newton, of Newcastle University in Britain, says this is because of problems with their autonomic nervous systems, which is responsible for subconscious activities. In studies using a magnetic-resonance imaging scanner, she found a build-up of acid in the muscles of ME patients when they took exercise. This can cause muscle weakness and pain. Dr Newton believes the build-up could be influenced entirely, or at least in part, by the degree to which the autonomic nervous system fails to properly maintain blood flow. It could also mean that drugs that already exist to help improve blood flow might also help some ME patients.

But what triggers ME? Some estimates put its occurrence at around one in 200 people in America and Britain. Sufferers are often in their 20s and 30s, and more women are affected than men. That it is so widespread suggests to some researchers that there are many causes, including exposure to certain viruses and other infectious diseases.

A long period of fatigue after suffering from an infectious disease is not unusual. At the conference, a team of Australian researchers speculated that many cases of ME are in fact cases of “post-infectious chronic fatigue”. Stephen Graves, of the Australian Rickettsial Reference Laboratory, said they had found a proportion of Australian ME sufferers may have a genetic predisposition to developing ME as a result of exposure to Q Fever or Flinders Island Spotted Fever. These are a pair of relatively uncommon diseases caused by two bacteria which can pass between animals and humans. If their hypothesis is correct, Dr Graves believes the incidence of ME in Australia may be reduced by greater public-health measures.

Although the trigger for most cases of ME may remain a mystery, the discovery of its biological roots and the promise of a test will bring hope of a diagnosis to sufferers. And, perhaps, inspire a sudden recovery in the malingerers.

Up to twelve luminous UFOs flew over this secure test facility and the region, and at least one F-106A interceptor was scrambled from George AFB at Victorville. All of this action was captured on classified U.S. Air Force audio tapes which have now been declassified and are available to the public along with official documentation.The question in my mind is, what was going on during those 3-4 hours we don't know about? If we were allowed to hear only 6 hours of 40, and read only 17 pages of hard-to-read documents, what is it we were NOT allowed to hear and see? The documents we have make it clear that by the time Alpha Lima Zero One was scrambled at at 1209Z or 5:09 PM PDT, "the activity was just about over."
Major Struble from an outfit known as LAADS (Los Angeles Air Defense Sector), a division of ARADCOM (Army Air Defense Command) authorized the making of these recordings of voice transmissions made by military personnel to and from Edwards Air Force Base- from base to base communications, phone patches, ground to air radio & tower to air radio. These recordings archived the conversations which documented this event of UFO visitation of a highly secure military base. The audio recordings were made on an extra track of large reels of radar data tapes, which were running all the time in the case of an accident and the need to review the radar tracks.

The event at Edwards Air Force Base took place over about a five hour period and since the voice recordings were made from at least 8 positions, approximately 40 hours of audio recordings had to have been made. Out of the possible 40 hours of these tape recordings only 6 hours were declassified by the Department of the Air Force.

Darryl Clark, Capt. 329th Fighter Interceptor Squadron (FIS), George AFB, Calif., was an alert pilot with Detachment.1 at Edwards AFB. He happened to be on duty this evening and was called upon to observe the activity. His observations were all made from the ground. Captain Clark was one of the important Alert Pilots at Edwards Air Force Base on the night of October 7, 1965. He was entrusted with flying one of the Hot Birds, as planes loaded with Nuclear Weapons were called, that protected the western part of the United States.

Skilled at target identification, Captain Clark is heard on the original Air Force recordings describing his UFO sighting of that night. (See Darryl Clark actual statement below)

That evening, October 7 (and the following one, October 8), 1965, some 700 engineers and scientists attended the Fourth X-15 Technical Conference at the (then) NASA Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB. This dealt with the research results of the 150 some X-15 flights made since 1959. (Astronautics and Aeronautics 1965 NASA SP-4006, page 464 - Joel Carpenter)

I am a film producer who is a product of the 1950s: the Saucer Scares, the Cold War, and the beginning of the U.S. Government's official denial of ET visitation of Planet Earth. I guess I have always thought our world was being visited by intelligent beings from elsewhere. When I had a UFO sighting in 1961 and was ridiculed for trying to discuss it, I became determinued to probe and study the UFO issue for as long as it took to discover the truth.

As a logical outcome of that longterm goal, I spent years researching and collating data in preparation of the production of a major film documentary on the UFO/ET issue. I finally got to the point of starting production in 1992. However, so strong is our programmed cultural and political denial of ET visitation that even members of my own staff treated me as an object of derision. This only made me more determined than ever to solve the UFO enigma, and I then began going straight to the very institutions which were witholding the truth from us: our own Military and Space agencies. My goal was to somehow obtain legitimate hard data from them that would be virtually impossible to debunk.

Back on the night of October 7, 1965, an event of historic proportions, a true landmark in UFO history, took place - the actual incursion over Edwards Air Force Base in the Palmdale/Lancaster area of California's Mojave Desert of a number of extraterrestrial craft. If this astonishing event is now, finally, gaining any measurable attention, it is a direct result of my efforts. I make that statement in all is simply the truth. In fact, this unprecedented event is not to be found in any of the major UFO books, and with the exception of a few UFO magazines reviewing my work, and interviews done with me on programs like Jeff Rense's SIGHTINGS, this event still remains virtually unknown.

What makes this historic intrusion and visit so important is that the US Air Force thoroughly documented it and even gave it a code name: "The Incident." During that fall night in 1965, it seems that 12 luminous UFOs came right down low and just over a secure military runway. These craft were all sighted visually by Air Force personnel and by several types of radar. Further, the Air Force scrambled several jet fighters after them and during the event the possible use of nuclear weapons even became an issue. The entire incident was additionally documented with written reports, radar photos, and AUDIO TAPES made by Air Force personnel while they were actually SEEING the objects, FLYING AFTER the objects, and considering taking SERIOUS MILITARY ACTION against what they might imply as a threat.

From my calculations at least 40 hours of recordings were made (a five hour event recording from at least 8 locations). However, only six hours of tapes were de-classified many years ago as a mass of noise and unclear voices, which truly defied interpretation. They had SCRAMBLED the tapes into what they felt was a hopeless jumble of random pieces of conversation utterly out of sequence and logical progression. When I realized what had been done, it presented a challenge which made me determined to find out what was hidden within that chaotic mass of sound.

After many months and countless hours of laborious research, cataloging, and editing the snips and pieces of the audio tape, I was able to organize the sound so the conversations could be understood. I had successfully restored the tapes to their original and correct sequencing. I then added carefully researched narration, which explained what was taking place, so that the listener would clearly understand the unfolding event.

As narrator, I sought out Jackson Beck, the true dean of radio announcers and films commentators - the voice of the Paramount Newsreel, countless original Military films, and even the original narrator of the Superman radio program. Mr. Beck is now heard on many important new national radio and TV commercials. His voice is known to millions, even if his name is not. I felt he would add credibility to the narration of this astonishing historical event. In fact, he told me that he has made a life long study of the UFO field and has had several important sightings himself.

The resulting reconstructed tapes are now ironclad documented proof of the existence of extraterrestrial UFO visitation to this planet. I have sent copies of my finished product directly to a number of major Government Agencies and have received NO NEGATIVE COMMENTS! Not a single Official Agency has tried to debunk or discredit the event, or my presentation of the tapes.

Furthermore, The CSETI organization has used my tape presentation in meetings with members of Congress with the aim of having our government tell the public the truth of ET involvement on the Earth. TSgt Charles Sorrels, heard prominently on the original Edwards recordings of October 7, 1965, and in newly-produced segments confirming the event, made the presentation in Washington which featured my documentary version of the Edwards Tapes. And yes, the plane spotters at Edwards KNEW that UFOs or UFOBs, as they called them then, were not our "black" projects, Soviet bombers, or any known aircraft - they were unknown, fabulously high-tech craft with capabilities beyond any known technology. they said on the old Superman series: "far beyond that of Mortal Man!"

In 1961 I saw and photographed an illuminated domed disc over New York City. I was treated with ridicule then and didn't like it. I had three other witnesses to this event. I planned to do a UFO documentary in the 1960's on this subject and use some of the stills and motion picture footage photographed.

At the time I was more interested in going to LA to make dramatic films, which I did. I came back to my old project in 1992. I had to endure the slings and arrows of ridicule from friends, and even business associates working on this film, now called Beyond This Earth.

I decided that I needed hard evidence that the subject was a real one, especially evidence from government agencies (which would add credibility if they had any connection to this subject).

From December 1992 to about June 1994 we filmed interviews, staged reenactments, obtained unique UFO footage, and even sent up a plane to chase and film UFOs from the air. (The plane succeeded in its mission, but that is another story.)

Having that success, I felt we were on a roll and more real events would take place which we would cover, but they did not. Not knowing if what we filmed in Northern California posed a threat to the public, I felt we should make an official report on it. Which we did.

This led to the suggestion that we go to various government agencies through the Freedom of Information Act and otherwise.

This has been a long, tedious process because we found out that we could classify the people we were in contact with into three categories, regarding the UFO phenomenon:

1. They knew nothing and couldn't help at all.
2. They knew nothing but wanted to help and were pro-release and moved us along.
3. They knew something and didn't want to help or encourage us.

Even still, we obtained the following de-classified materials, related to the UFO subject: Over 4000 pages of paper documents and correspondence; still photographs, radar photos, motion picture film, videotapes and audio tapes. Audio tapes?? Who was interested in that? We all wanted to see something.

Well, it turned out that the sounds presented some fantastic images all their own. I reviewed the audio materials last, as I had shelved them for months, I wanted visuals. What a mistake! I listened to six hours of confusing audio recordings from Edwards Air Force Base from the night of October 7, 1965 in which it sounded like a UFO alert was taking place over the base with 12 strange luminous objects coming down over the runway of one of our nation's most secure test facilities. This was/is the place where they fly the black, classified projects. They know what they are and what planes, helicopters, stars, weather balloons, planets and satellites are.

So what were they getting excited about? It was difficult to tell on the six hours of tapes. These tapes were de-classified, but in a form called "scrambled release" - all chopped up out of sequence, so they made no sense at all. I knew there was a story in there somewhere.

Between the chopped up editing and the overlay of noise, something very important lay in waiting. I decided to analyze the tapes for possible use in a segment in Beyond This Earth.

I took eight months in my own audio studio editing 1/4 inch audio tapes, after signal processing them in computer to remove noise. I got to know the tapes so well, I felt I almost knew the people on the tapes, which I would in time.

Now, what were these tapes and why were they made? In 1965 the Air Force ran large reels of recording tapes which recorded all of the signals from Radar.

Then if an accident or problem took place, the Radar could be re-played like running a video tape to figure out what took place. In the case of special events a track on these radar tapes could be used to record voice transmissions at the air base.

This included all Phone Patches, Base-to-Base Communications and Ground- or Tower-to-Air Radio. Now this is what took place on the night of October 7, 1965 at Edwards Air Force Base. By putting the tapes into chronology and doing further research the story emerged.

At approximately 12:30AM, the Tower Operator at Edwards (a/k/a Edwards Tower) - Tech Sgt. Charles "Chuck" Sorrels saw a group of luminous objects flashing red, white, and blue or green light coming over the field. His job as an air traffic controller taught him to be watchful, so he could identify incoming planes. when these objects started to do unusual maneuvers, he knew this was out of the ordinary and called the Air Defense Command - in this case a unit known as LAADS (The Los Angeles Air Defense Sector).

Major Struble at LAADS ordered the recordings to be made--now we hear all this taking place on the actual tapes. He involved NORAD and the following other air bases- NORTON, HAMILTON, GEORGE and MARCH.

The major wanted to send planes up after the objects but could not do this until a CAPTAIN at Edwards approved sending up the planes. This Captain was the . . . get this . . . UFO officer (pronounced Yoo-fo) officer in charge on the base.

This was apparently more than just a job classification for reporting sightings, but he had to request the plane or planes go up, from the 28th Air Division at Hamilton, or they would not go up. In short the Air Defense Command needed HIS authority.

Well, here we are: the UFO subject, which we have heard does not exist, has its own UFO officers . . . how strange.

There were no officers on base for the other paranormal pursuits - Demon Officers, Ghost Officers or Leprechaun Officers.

Once I started editing the tapes into some kind of sequence, everybody wanted to hear them. I then started making some cassettes as samples, and everybody wanted them. I gave many away and was encouraged to go further with my research. I did.

I found Chuck Sorrels, who authenticated the event and recorded an audio interview for my tape verifying the details.

I went to about a dozen military agencies, and they helped with the research. Eventually I put this together into a 54-minute audio documentary on audio cassette, along with a copy of Air Force written documentation, in a large vinyl display case and called the final program . . .


I have had great positive response to this work. Where I have made feature films for theatres for many years, and do have some fans, nothing I ever worked on yielded this response. Apparently many people, like myself, had been researching the UFO subject seriously, and were ridiculed by friends and family.

They, as I, needed some hard evidence to show/play for others, to gain new respect. I have been told that people are getting this tape, inviting their friends over and having a UFO party playing the tape to the amazement of all present.

That is what has been going on. The media caught onto this. I have been interviewed on numerous radio and TV programs on this subject and Paramount flew me out to California to appear in and work on a two-part "Sightings" episode on the Edwards tapes. We filmed in the Mojave Desert near Edwards AFB, where the original event took place.

They were very pleased with how it turned out and got good reaction to it. I have also sent copies of the documentary back to official agencies, with positive reaction, on a person-to-person basis.

I think many people want to get this UFO information out to the public. One well-known airline pilot, who is also a UFO investigator, sent me a nice letter when he finally got our tape and said: "When I first heard of your tape, I said to myself, who needs this? How wrong I was. This is solid evidence in a field where there is precious little (evidence)."

Since this has only been a side issue away from the production of my film, this tape is not yet available in stores, although we have had requests for it. Many people have contacted me who wanted to obtain it and said it was hard to find. So, we set up a mail order division to make the tape available, generally on short turn-around.

The tapes are guaranteed to be authentic. I am still researching the subject for a two-hour TV special on the same topic and an interactive CD-ROM on it. These programs will take this subject and broaden out the events of 10-7-65 and go forward and back in time. On the tapes the UFOs were spotted on Radar, Heightfinder Radar, Weather Radar and Visual Observations from many locations--ground, towers, tops of buildings, and planes. On the tapes we hear one F-106 pilot chasing a UFO up to 40,000 feet. However, my research shows that one plane may have crashed and a third plane also sent up.

The six hours of tape I received, I believe to have been cut down from over 40 hours of original tapes . . . what could be on the rest of them?? I am seeking further research on this event and connecting events at Edwards and related bases.

I am also seeking to locate Major Struble, Captain John Balent (the UFO officer) and others involved with this event which was given a Code Name: "The Incident."

There were some civilians near Edwards who also saw something and some stories in local papers, of which I would like to obtain copies. Many other events like this have taken place at other locations, but the information is . . . where?

For nine decades after Bolshevik executioners shot Czar Nicholas II and his family, there were no traces of the remains of Crown Prince Aleksei, the hemophiliac heir to Russia’s throne.

Some said the prince, a delicate 13-year-old, had somehow survived and escaped; others believed he was buried in secret as the country lurched into civil war.

Now an official says DNA tests have solved the mystery by identifying bone shards found in a forest as those of Aleksei and his sister Grand Duchess Maria.

The remains of their parents, Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra, and three siblings, including the czar’s youngest daughter, Anastasia, were unearthed in 1991 and reburied in the imperial resting place in St. Petersburg. The Russian Orthodox Church made all seven of them saints in 2000.

Researchers unearthed the bone shards last summer in a forest near Yekaterinburg, where the royal family was killed, and enlisted laboratories in Russia and the United States to conduct DNA tests.

Eduard Rossel, governor of the region 900 miles east of Moscow, said Wednesday that tests done by an American laboratory had identified the shards as those of Aleksei and Maria.

“This has confirmed that indeed it is the children,” he said. “We have now found the entire family.”

Mr. Rossel did not specify the laboratory, but a genetic research team working at the University of Massachusetts Medical School has been involved in the process. Rogaev, who headed the team that tested the remains in Moscow and at the medical school in Worcester, Mass., was called into the case by the Russian Federation Prosecutor’s Office.

He said Wednesday that he had delivered the results to the Russian authorities, but that it was up to the prosecutor’s office to disclose the findings.

“The most difficult work is done, and we have delivered to them our expert analysis, but we are still working,” he said. “Scientifically, we want to make the most complete investigation possible.” Despite the earlier discoveries and ceremonies, the absence of Aleksei’s and Maria’s remains gnawed at descendants of the Romanovs, history buffs and royalists. Even if the announcement is confirmed and widely accepted, many descendants of the royal family are unlikely to be fully assuaged; they seek formal rehabilitation by the government.

“The tragedy of the czar’s family will only end when the family is declared victims of political repression,” said German Lukyanov, a lawyer for royal descendants.

Nicholas abdicated in 1917 as revolutionary fervor swept Russia, and he and his family were detained. They were shot by a firing squad on July 17, 1918, in the basement of a house in Yekaterinburg.

In the introduction to his biography of Boris N. Yeltsin, Timothy J. Colton lists more than 100 of the similes and analogies that have been applied over the years to Yeltsin, among them martyr and jester, Lincoln and Nixon, Alexander the Great and Ivan the Terrible, Hamlet and Hercules, bear, bulldog and boa constrictor. The wry list is an early signal that Mr. Colton knows he is treading into a subject that has inspired rival mythologies.

To some Western academics and more than a few Russians, Yeltsin’s role was almost wholly destructive. Interrupting Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s cautious reforms of the Communist Party and the Soviet state, Yeltsin smashed both institutions. He sold off the country’s resource-rich industrial heritage to a few moguls in a corrupt insider auction. His economic “shock therapy” plunged the country into a period of falling output and runaway inflation that Mr. Colton likens to the Great Depression. He unleashed the army against a mutinous parliament and waged a brutal, scorched-earth war against separatist Chechnya.

For years after Yeltsin crashed onto the political scene, the Gorbachev-infatuated West was overwhelmingly dismissive. Mr. Colton, a professor of government and director of Russian studies at Harvard and the author of a grand history of the city of Moscow, cops to being one of those early dismissers. But he declares up front that his research brought him around to the view that Yeltsin, while flawed and enigmatic, was a hero.

“As a democratizer,” Mr. Colton writes, “he is in the company of Nelson Mandela, Lech Walesa, Mikhail Gorbachev and Vaclav Havel. It is his due even when allowance is made for his blind spots and mistakes.”

Mr. Colton is not the first to undertake Yeltsin’s redemption. Leon Aron’s “Yeltsin: A Revolutionary Life” took up the case for Yeltsin in 2000, as his presidency was petering out, and his popularity was at a low ebb. But Mr. Colton has used the extra time to excellent effect. He has mined declassified Kremlin transcripts; fact-checked many memoirs; conducted extensive interviews with participants, including Yeltsin, shortly before his death last year; and synthesized a story that anyone curious about contemporary Russia will find illuminating. And though this is densely researched scholarship, Mr. Colton writes a fluid narrative that only occasionally wanders into the briar patch of academic-speak.

Yeltsin’s grievance against the Communists began before he was born, in an all-too-common history of family heartbreak that Mr. Colton pieces together with a good deal of original reporting. The Yeltsins were dispossessed for the bourgeois crime of having built a farm, mill and blacksmithing business. Yeltsin’s grandfather died a broken man. His father was charged with the catch-all crime of “anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda” for grousing at his job on a construction site, and sent to a forced-labor camp for three years.

When Yeltsin joined the Communist Party, it was not out of devotion to the professed ideals but because a party card was a requirement for promotion to chief engineer in the construction industry. And when he moved into the hierarchy, he was already a man who chafed at party orthodoxy. No radical, he “nibbled at the edges of what was admissible,” Mr. Colton writes, pushing for market prices in the local farm bazaars, encouraging entrepreneurial initiative in the workplace, complaining that the top-down system smothered self-reliance.

In his moderation he was at first rather like Mr. Gorbachev, Yeltsin’s exact contemporary (the two were born 29 days apart, in 1931), his sponsor for a time, but ultimately his foil and nemesis. Mr. Colton nicely sums up the two men metaphorically: Yeltsin is feline, with an instinct for the great and unexpected leap; Mr. Gorbachev is canine, “trainable, tied to the known and to the previously rewarded.”

Mr. Gorbachev promoted Yeltsin to be Moscow party boss, but soon came to see him as an impetuous showboat. Yeltsin saw Mr. Gorbachev as a vacillating windbag, and made little effort to hide it. He infuriated his party leader by complaining about Mrs. Gorbachev’s meddling in Moscow affairs. They clashed in the Politburo over Yeltsin’s populist jibes at the privileges of party leaders.

The decisive break came in October 1987 when Yeltsin, in a disjointed speech to a (closed) party plenum, declared that people were losing faith in reforms and accused Mr. Gorbachev of tolerating a personality cult.

Mr. Gorbachev orchestrated a ritual humiliation and demotion, but half a year later the audacious outcast seized a more public moment — a conference of 5,000 party delegates — to repeat his broadside, assuring both his permanent estrangement from the party and his status as a popular hero.

Shrewdly, Yeltsin recast himself as the champion of the Russian republic — the heart of the Soviet Union — and campaigned for a seat in a new federal Congress of People’s Deputies. Mr. Gorbachev chose to enter the congress in an uncontested seat reserved for party leaders. His unwillingness to subject himself to a popular vote (which, at the time, he probably could have won) was, Mr. Colton recognizes, “a blunder of biblical proportions.” Yeltsin sailed into the parliament despite the Communists’ best efforts, and the tide of credibility had shifted decisively his way.

Mr. Gorbachev’s last gambit, shoring up the Soviet leadership with hard-line appointees, backfired when several tried to overthrow him. That ham-handed coup gave Yeltsin his famous tank-top photo op and his ultimate triumph.

Once he won the Kremlin, Yeltsin began drinking heavily. Mr. Colton concludes that while Yeltsin’s drinking was a distraction and an embarrassment, it did not critically influence his decisions as president.

“No sensible historian would reduce Ataturk’s or Churchill’s career to his drinking escapades,” Mr. Colton writes, generously. The booze did, however, ruin Yeltsin’s health; he had at least four heart attacks before bypass surgery.

The last half of the book has Yeltsin confronting the blank slate of post-Communist Russia. His three highly improvisational terms as Russian president were marked by periods of political gridlock, government by decree and constant intrigues, including a near-impeachment. His crash economic program, which Russians joked was all shock and no therapy, was meant to unleash entrepreneurial energy. But it also unleashed colossal avarice and corruption, along with five years of economic misery.

In defense, Mr. Colton writes, “By the day Yeltsin called it quits in 1999, the cradle of state socialism boasted a market economy of sorts,” inflation had been subdued, economic growth rebounded.
“Reforming the system from within, as Gorbachev meant to do,” he writes, “was a respectable choice. Heading for the exits was a cleaner and better one.”

Within this democratizer — whom Mr. Colton ranks alongside Mr. Mandela — there resided a deeply Russian and sometimes ruthless fear of instability.

He rebuffed entreaties from his liberal supporters to uproot the K.G.B. Indeed, in his appointments he often reached for young security apparatchiks, men he regarded as possessing “steel backbone.”

Most of these securocrats he discarded when he grew disenchanted or needed a scapegoat. But the last in the line, Vladimir V. Putin, endured and became Yeltsin’s successor because he captured public esteem and loyally stood by Yeltsin through severe tests, including the bloody crushing of Chechnya.

In retirement, Mr. Colton says, Yeltsin confided mounting disapproval as his protégé tightened the screws on the press and political opposition. No doubt — and Yeltsin can’t be entirely blamed for his successor (any more than Mr. Mandela could have foreseen how his hand-picked successor would disappoint South Africa). But Mr. Putin is doubly Yeltsin’s legacy. Yeltsin anointed him, and the persistent popularity of his hard regime owes something to the stomach-churning ride of Yeltsin-style democracy.

Researchers have identified two common genetic mutations that increase the risk of osteoporosis and related bone fractures, according to a study released Tuesday.

These changes were present in 20 percent of the people studied and highlight the potential role of screening for osteoporosis, the bone-thinning disease that mainly affects women after menopause, they said in the journal Lancet.

''Eventually, a panel of genetic markers could be used in addition to environmental risk factors to identify individuals who are most at risk for osteoporotic fractures,'' wrote Tim Spector and Brent Richards, researchers at King's College London.

Osteoporosis is a condition in which bone density thins as more bone cells are lost than replaced when people age.

It affects about one in three women and one in five men around the world, according to the International Osteoporosis Foundation.

Drugs called bisphosphonates are used primarily to increase bone mass and cut the risk of fractures in patients with osteoporosis.

These include Fosamax, produced by Merck & Company, which American researchers on Monday showed could increase the risk of a type of abnormal heartbeat.

In the Lancet study, the team scanned the genes of 2,094 female twins and identified a link between decreased bone mineral density and changes in chromosomes 8 and 11.

In chromosome 11, the change was associated with a 30 percent increased risk of the condition and related fractures, and for chromosome 8, the mutation raised risk by 20 percent.

For people who had both changes, their risk went up by 30 percent.

These two genes are important targets for treatments, and drugs are already under development, the researchers said.

President Jimmy Carter was the first President of the United States of America to have officially reported the UFO he saw to the authorities. He was also the President who said that if elected he would see that UFO-Alien Full Disclosure would take place. That the American public would be told the truth about everything was one of the campaign cries of Jimmy Carter. Carter made a promise he could not or would not be able to keep.

After Carter won the White House, he paid a visit to the then-CIA Director, George Bush. Carter had an interest in UFOs ever since experiencing his first sighting sometime in 1969 while standing outside a Lion's Club in Georgia.
His campaign speeches promising to unravel the government's long held cover-up was the "Parting of the Red Sea" for Ufologists not only in America but around the world. Here was the one guy who would open up the "Promised Land" and lead them into Full Disclosure.

Carter wanted the U.S. Government's UFO secret documents declassified. George Bush more or less told Carter that the President of the United States did not have the need to know the information contained in those documents. Can you even begin to imagine that? What lends even more mind-blowing credibility to this alleged event between Carter and Bush is the credibility of the allegation maker: Daniel Sheehan.

Daniel Sheehan was born in1946 and graduated from Harvard Law School. There, he was co-founder of the Harvard Civil Rights and Civil Liberty Law Review. He went on to work for the American Civil Liberties Union and became general counsel for a host of entities including The Disclosure Project-a group dedicated to getting the U.S. Government to allow full and unfettered access to what the Feds know about the UFO-Alien phenomenon.

According to Sheehan, Bush Senior, who was the CIA Director, refused Carter's request for disclosure of the UFO documents, even to the President of the United States, because it was generally believed in the halls and corridors of the secret, black-ops government that Carter would then turn the truth over to the American people.

Director of a California think tank, Sheehan's credentials are impeccable. Sheehan's career is a litany of high-profile cases like, "legal counsel team for the New York Times' Pentagon Papers case, defense of the Berrigan brothers, going after the Kerr-McGee nuclear plant (Karen Silkwood), Three-Mile Island, Iran-Contra. At the Disclosure Conference, Sheehan says the Bush-Carter story was relayed to him in 1977 by Marcia Smith of the Congressional Research Service, part of the Library of Congress."

Sheehan's interest in this phenomenon came about when Sheehan met Marcia Smith through a mutual acquaintance. Smith told Sheehan that she was involved in a research project for the Science and Technology Committee of the Library of Congress that would address the issues of the potential existence of extraterrestrial intelligence and make an evaluation of the data on the phenomena of UFOs. When Sheehan queried Smith as to who exactly wanted this study done, her answer was none other than Jimmy Carter.

This all was with a view to investigate exactly what could or could not be turned over to the general public, according to Daniel Sheehan.

Smith asked Sheehan if he could, since he was the then-General Counsel to United States Jesuit Headquarters at their National Office in Washington D.C., get access to the records on the UFO-Alien issue contained in the Vatican. Though Sheehan made repeated attempts to gain access to the Vatican's documents through official channels, he was refused each time.

This makes one wonder just why, if all there is to this UFO-Alien issue is weather balloons, flocks of geese, and swamp gas, would the Vatican (or any government on the earth, for that matter) have top-secret, and highly unattainable records pertaining to a nonexistent issue?

After telling Marcia Smith of his roadblock with the Vatican Library, she asked if he could help with a team that was lobbying Congressional leader to reinstate funds for the SETI (Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence) program. Sheehan indicated to Smith that he was glad to help out. Smith also later asked him if he could help out with an investigation into "the potential theological religious implications of potential contact with extraterrestrial civilizations."

This again begs the question that if there's nothing at all to this phenomenon, then why this study?

Sheehan agreed to Smith's request but insisted he have access to the documents pertaining to this issue that she had garnered for an investigation she did for the Science and Technology Committee in Congress. When asked what exactly Sheehan wanted to see, he indicated he wanted access to "the classified sections of the Project Blue Book."

Astoundingly, Daniel was granted access.

He was not allowed to take notes, photos, or carry anything into the room containing the documents or out with him when he left the Library of Congress where the documents were stored. After proceeding through multiple layers of security, he was shown to the room with microfiche machines. Before entering, he was told he could not take his briefcase with him. Almost absent-mindedly, he had a yellow legal pad under his arm that wasn't confiscated before he entered the room. He proceeded through small canisters of film. It didn't take long to find proof.

He discovered photos of what appeared to be a disc-shaped craft. It had crashed.

"It had hit into this field and had dug up, kind of plowed this kind of trough through this field. It was wedged into the side of this bank. There was snow all around the picture. The vehicle was wedged into the side of this mud-like embankment -- kind of up at an angle."

The men taking photos were unmistakably, in Sheehan's mind, American Air Force personnel.

As Sheehan continued to review the film, he discovered a close-up of the craft that revealed symbols or glyphs written on the craft. He thought it was an insignia. He wanted to record what he saw, but remembered he was not allowed to take notes. He knew it was likely his legal pad would be discovered when he left the room and the guards would examine it to see if he had taken notes.
However, since he wanted those insignias, he had to find a way to record them. He decided to arrange the cardboard backing of his legal pad in such a way against the microfiche screen so he could trace the symbols. When he left the top-secret document room, he was searched. His pad was taken and flipped through for notes. Finding none, and not noticing the traced symbols on the cardboard backing of the yellow pad, it was returned to him by the guards and Sheehan left.

Sheehan not only revealed to Marcia Smith what he had found but he also revealed the information to his boss at the Jesuit National Headquarters. Meetings and conventions were convened on the issue. Reports were written. President Carter saw at least one of the reports made by Marcia Smith, which included information from Daniel Sheehan's discoveries.

Sheehan still has the yellow notepad with the symbols but says no analysis has been done on the symbols.

Oh, are you wondering about the reports Marcia Smith finished after Daniel Sheehan's discovery and what they said? Well, Sheehan read them and according to Sheehan:

"The one report that Marcia showed me on extraterrestrial phenomena actually stated that it was the conclusion of the Library of Congress, Science and Technology Division, that from two to six, at least, other highly-intelligent, technologically-developed civilizations exist right within our own galaxy." [sources]

"The second report," says Sheehan, "they had drawings of different shapes of UFOs that have been sighted," continued Sheehan. "They didn't site any particular cases, but they said that they believed there was a significant number of instances where the official United States Air Force investigations were unable to discount the possibility that one or more of these vehicles was actually from one of these extraterrestrial civilizations. They put this together, and sent it over to the President. I ended up seeing a copy of it."

The Carter Administration, though not bringing about Full Disclosure, had a very busy four years of UFO phenomena. I can't help but wonder if he had had another term in office, what could have come of all of this?

If there's a skill or process you want to learn or know more about, chances are there's an online video for it. These days you can find a video that will teach you to cook, survive college, build your own headphones or even become a better kisser.

This week, I took a look at just a few Web sites that make finding these videos easy, including Howcast Media Inc.'s Howcast.com1, WonderHowTo.com2 from WonderHowTo Inc. and eHow Inc.'s eHow.com3., which launched in February, encourages users to make and share good-quality, entertaining videos by providing tools on its site, and has about 5,000 videos so far., launched in January, used a different strategy by aggregating over 110,000 videos from various sources -- including Howcast, YouTube and Scripps Networks -- rather than publishing its own content. EHow, a site that started in 1999 with text-only content, contains over 100,000 instructional articles submitted by its users or eHow editors, and has a small catalog of videos.

Howcast videos can be seen in full-screen mode using a player that illustrates step-by-step text instructions beside video screens.

After testing each of these sites, I found that my favorite how-to videos had steps that were clearly labeled and numbered and the ability to fast forward to or play back specific parts in the video -- tools that Howcast included in almost all of its videos. At least some of the videos on the three sites simply illustrate things you could likely figure out how to do without watching a video, such as "How to Make Green Beer." (Add food coloring.) and WonderHowTo both require users to sign in, which confirms their date of birth, before looking at what they consider "mature" content.

These three free sites are advertisement-supported, and Howcast's ads run alongside videos. runs ads at the top and side of its own site, on which it will play certain videos. But because videos on WonderHowTo come from other sources, those other sites can show video-embedded ads according to their rules. EHow's videos run pop-up text advertisements displaying names and links of other related (and sometimes unrelated) Web sites. But I couldn't get the pop-up ads to stay closed.

Overall, I preferred the look of Howcast's site and its well-organized videos. But its content paled in comparison to WonderHowTo's 110,000 videos and even eHow's 100,000 instructional articles. does a nice job of gathering content from across the Web, though the inconsistencies of other sites (including advertisements, layout and video player) were a bit frustrating. EHow's articles were useful, as were its few videos, but I couldn't get over the site's unyielding video pop-up ads.'s content was informative with an amusing edge, including a video titled "How to Tell If Your Boyfriend's A Psycho."(If he calls 50 times a day, for example.) Other videos on the site are more serious, like "How to Make Sushi" by an executive sushi chef in New York City.

The founders of Howcast Media formerly worked in Google's video department, including during the acquisition of YouTube. All of Howcast's content comes from one of four sources: written and produced by Howcast in its studios; emerging filmmakers who apply and are accepted into the Howcast Directors Program to receive $50 a video and 50% of the advertising revenue generated from videos that generate over 40,000 views on the site; content partners like Popular Science; and Howcast users' personal how-to videos.

In order to make it easier for average users to upload better-looking videos, Howcast provides an Upload and Enhance tool that simply and quickly adds professional-looking graphics and printable steps to go along with how-to videos. This formula makes videos more enjoyable to watch.

Videos made in the Howcast Studios include accompanying music, good narratives and actors who add humor to an otherwise humdrum how-to. Among its helpful features is a video player that has smart blue markers to show where facts are sprinkled throughout the video and green markers to illustrate where tips appear. For example, the fact at the end of a video for beginner guitarists called "How to Play a Basic Bar Chord" is "The late Kurt Cobain claimed he was trying to rip off the Pixies when he wrote 'Smells Like Teen Spirit. '" In full-screen view, users can zoom in on any part of a video, and written-out steps and thumbnail stills of the scene appear to the right of the screen.

Howcast tries to run ads alongside videos that relate to the content. A video titled "How To Clean Your Dog's Teeth" has an ad for PetSmart Stores running on its page. was developed by a former television executive with the intention of using the site to produce its own video, like Instead, opted to tap the vast selection of how-to videos already available on the Web.

A Browse button pulls down 35 categories from which users can sort content, including Spirituality, Dating & Relationships and Fitness. In the Fashion subcategory under Beauty & Style, I found 290 videos including one on "How to Tie a Windsor Knot" and another titled "How to Turn Old Underpants Into a Bra" -- neither of which I'll be using anytime soon. Other categories include Clip of the Day, Recommendations (for users who are logged in) and Fresh, where new videos are listed. Users can grade videos to help others tell which they think are the best, and a Top Grade category compiles the top-ranked videos.

WonderHowTo's content comes from over 700 sites, according to the company. I used the site to find a video on YouTube about how to do a front-flip, clips on that provided terrific tennis tips from a coach, and a video from about how to stick a beer bottle to a wall without glue or gum. (Hint: You'll need a corner and a wall you don't mind marking up.) WonderHowTo made it easier to find these videos than by performing a general search on the Web.

I submitted a non-how-to video to this site by simply entering a URL, without logging in. I never found the video I submitted on the site; WonderHowTo explained that it screens all videos prior to posting them, so it must have found my video. uses its database of articles to encourage people to watch videos, when they're relevant. This site uses calm, pastel colors to give a relaxed feeling -- especially compared with WonderHowTo, where banner ads surround the page. EHow's 26 categories include Parenting, Parties & Entertaining and Weddings. Twelve subcategories within Weddings led to 23 articles about Bridal Party Responsibilities -- a popular topic was "How To Deal With a Bridezilla." Related videos, such as "How To Get Rid of Wedding Day Jitters," ran along the right of the page.

Videos can also be found on eHow within a marked tab at the top of the page. But unlike the articles on eHow, these videos weren't well organized or as easily searchable. I watched one of eHow's Featured Videos called "How to Know if Your Toe Is Broken," but after closing a pop-up ad for UPS during Step One of the video, another ad popped up during Step Five. Neither ad had anything to do with broken toes.

But the eHow videos were professional-looking and included quite a few tips that I didn't know. That broken toe video was submitted by the eHow Health Editor, and a link at the top of the page led me to hundreds of other health-related articles. I found another video on "How To Remove Wallpaper," which was posted by the Home & Garden Editor and included a list of things I would need to proceed, along with numbered steps.

It isn't always easy to learn from the information you find online, and how-to videos can be a big help -- especially when they're well-made and easy to find using one of these sites. has well-presented content that was enjoyable to watch, but offers a better variety of instructional videos.

Kim Cattrall has played everything from a Vulcan in "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" to an Egyptian princess in 1987's "Mannequin," but her big break didn't come until 1997, when she was cast in HBO's "Sex and the City." Ms. Cattrall's portrayal of Samantha Jones in the series earned her five Emmy nominations and a Golden Globe award. This month, Ms. Cattrall, 51 years old, reprises the role in the new movie, "Sex and the City." She says her comic timing can be traced to her love of black-and-white screwball comedies. "I'm inspired by actresses like Lucille Ball and Marilyn Monroe," she says. "You can't teach what they do." She spoke with us about her favorite romantic comedies.

'My Man Godfrey,' 1936

In this comedy, Carole Lombard plays a daffy socialite who discovers a vagrant (William Powell) in the city dump and hires him as her butler. Before long, she is in love with him. "Carole Lombard is so glamorous," says Ms. Cattrall. "Every day she wakes up looking fabulous and somebody brings her breakfast. I haven't had breakfast in bed recently enough."

'His Girl Friday,' 1940

Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell star in Howard Hawks's remake of the 1931 newsroom comedy "The Front Page." Ms. Russell's character, Hildy Johnson, originally was written for a man. "She looked like a little guy, the way she would sit on the desk," Ms. Cattrall says of the performance.

'Sullivan's Travels,' 1941

Preston Sturges wrote and directed this film about a privileged Hollywood director, played by Joel McCrea, who decides the only way he can understand the poor is to pretend to be one of them. "Joel McCrea was such an underrated actor," says Ms. Cattrall. "I could watch that movie over and over just for his delivery."

'I Married a Witch,' 1942
René Clair directed this film about a witch who is burned in 17th-century Salem and returns in the guise of a 20th-century woman (Veronica Lake), only to fall in love with a descendant of the man who killed her. "It's supposed to be a comedy about love between a witch and a mortal, but really it's about accepting people as they are," says Ms. Cattrall.

'Woman of the Year,' 1942

Katharine Hepburn was nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal of a self-absorbed newspaper columnist who falls in love with Spencer Tracy's rumpled sportswriter. "My favorite scene is when Spencer Tracy comes to the office to ask her to marry him," Ms. Cattrall says. "The timing on that is impeccable."

Every winter, hordes of divers head to the congested, overdeveloped scuba-diving destinations of the Caribbean and the Red Sea. But there's a less-traversed option: Fly to Moscow, take the railroad 27 hours north, and drive two hours along snow-covered dirt roads to a village almost on the Arctic Circle, along an inlet of the White Sea. Then, take a snowmobile to a small black triangle cut into the ice.

Ice diving is one of the last great scuba adventures. WSJ's Mark Schoofs ice dives in the White Sea in Northern Russia and gives a peek into an underwater world full of sea creatures.

Ice diving is one of the last grand scuba adventures. Popular destinations include Antarctica, Newfoundland and certain lakes in the Austrian Alps. One of the best -- and least known -- is Russia's White Sea.

There, diaphanous, rainbow-tinged comb jellies (like jellyfish without the tentacles) float by. On rocks lie starfish and related brittle stars of every description. There are ophiuras, whose thin, spidery legs are striped wine-red and cream-white, and there are glittering, ruby-red crossasters with stubby legs, each tipped with delicate, filament tentacles. Luxuriant forests of large round anemones, each one ivory or pink-orange, look like some 1960s hallucinogenic art installation. Among them live multicolored sponges and algae, colonies of barnacles and tiny neon-lavender skeleton crabs. Wolf fish hide in crevasses. On the sea bed billow acres of low-growing kelp, whose undulation is as mesmerizing as a Bach fugue.

Above it all is the ice, almost alive, filtering sunlight into varying shades of emerald and gold. When one finally ascends back up through the ice hole, or maina, one literally ascends into light.

Marine life in the White Sea is so rich partly because cold water holds more oxygen than warm water, and in winter, the water is below freezing, about 30 degrees Fahrenheit. That means divers need gear -- lots of it. A dry suit, unlike the more common wet suit, is mandatory. With a zipper derived from a NASA design, and a seal on the neck, it keeps the body perfectly dry.

On my recent seven-day diving trip here with a Russian company, I wore three layers under a dry suit: a union suit made of polypropylene to wick away sweat, thick fleece long johns, and an even thicker Thinsulate-insulated undergarment that looks like a snowsuit. I wore two pairs of socks and Thinsulate booties, plus chemical toe warmers that react with air to generate heat. I used them on my hands, too, where I wore three layers of gloves under rubber outer gloves.

My head was in two neoprene hoods, a thin one underneath a thick one that tucked into a collar to protect my neck. A mask covered the skin around my nose and eyes. Only my lips, which held the mouthpiece connecting me to the air supply, were exposed directly to the cold water. Lips have such good blood flow that they don't go numb but merely tingle upon entry.
Donning all this gear, plus fins, tank, and the lead weights that help a diver sink, takes about half an hour. We suited up in mobile huts on skis, where gas heaters made me feel like a mummy working out in a sauna. Slipping into the cold water was a relief.

How to Get There: Aeroflot flies to Moscow nonstop from Los Angeles for around $900. Delta flies nonstop from New York for around $1,000.Then it's a flight to Murmansk, or a train ride to Chupa.
Book a Trip: Peak ice-diving season is February to April. In summer, there's no ice, but the scenery and 24-hour daylight are draws. RuDive starts taking reservations a year in advance ( Early booking is advised, especially for groups. Standard tours go from Sunday to Friday. Custom trips can last longer or, as some Russians and Finns prefer, for a weekend.
Price: A week of ice-diving at the White Sea with RuDive -- including lessons, a room with private bath and train travel to and from Moscow -- is about $1,750 per person.

But the cold harbors danger. Valves can freeze, either blasting a diver with free-flowing air or shutting off the air supply altogether. Every air tank for ice diving has two valves, not the standard one for warm-water diving, and the mouthpiece valve has a freeze-resistant design. Even so, I encountered an emergency. I wore a vest that inflated and deflated to control buoyancy, and a valve on it froze open, ballooning the vest and sending me straight up. I was pinned against the ice, unable to swim freely, with the air in my tank rapidly flowing out. The safety of the terrestrial world was less than a foot away but walled off by impenetrable ice.

This is the second danger of ice diving: To ascend to the surface, one must return to the ice hole. Out of air and wearing close to 100 pounds of gear, even 25 yards underwater can be a long, even lethal distance. Each diver is secured to a rope connected to two other people: a buddy in the water and a tender on the surface. My buddy saw my trouble and gave the emergency signal: Four yanks of the rope, and our tender hauled us in. We skated along the ice's underside, a sensation so fun and beautiful that I forgot the danger. Up on top, our tender doused the valve with hot water from a thermos, and we resumed our dive.

Living so intimately with ice, one realizes it is anything but static. A brilliant sun shone during the first two days. But then a heavy snow fell, and when we went to the maina, the water seemed to have risen, forming a puddle on the ice. The weight of the snow had pushed the ice down, forcing water up through the hole. On another day, we were diving when a storm roared in. Our guides, concerned that large waves on the open sea would create surges capable of cracking the ice, decided we would leave.

Even without storms, the tides rise and fall more than six feet, so the ice at the shore continually cracks, refreezes and cracks again. Underneath, the constant friction sculpts the ice into breathtaking forms through which light streams as if through a kaleidoscope.

Topside, the muted light of a snowstorm or a sunset brings forth the full range of color in arctic ice: every conceivable variation of white and grey and a softly iridescent blue that seems to emanate from deep within. At night, the wind sweeps stretches of ice clean of snow, and they gleam obsidian black.

The underside of the ice is bubbled like a sponge, and in many of the holes live tiny crustaceans. Blow scuba bubbles, and they fall out like living rain.

Two former marine biologists, Dmitri Orlov and Mikhail Safonov, founded the outfit that organized this expedition, the RuDive Group, which offers world-wide scuba tours. In 1996, after the Soviet Union crumbled and science funding dried up, Mr. Safonov and Mr. Orlov began offering diving lessons, and in 1998 they began taking customers to the White Sea.

Five years ago, they opened their own diving center there, with comfortable wooden chalets offering accommodations from hostel-style dorms with shared baths to private rooms. Meals are hearty, often featuring local smoked fish, fresh vegetables and fruit and preserves made from local berries.

About seven years ago, Mr. Safonov recalls, a woman ice-diving with a predecessor company he and his partner founded and ran died in a Moscow lake at a depth of about 10 feet. The exact circumstances weren't clear, but spurred largely by the event, RuDive now requires all customers to have ice-diving certification from the Professional Association of Diving Instructors. Customers can get ice-diving certification at the start of their trip. RuDive has added to the standard training to enhance safety.

In 1999, Mr. Safonov participated in what is believed to be the first successful scuba expedition to the North Pole. The ice there forms underwater "castles," he says, and the water is as clear as air. Last month, he returned from RuDive's fifth successful polar diving trip. The cost: $40,000 per person.

RuDive's White Sea center has two captive beluga whales, owned by a Russian aquarium and held in a netted sea pen. The one-ton males circled in swift arabesques, then came straight at me, playfully biting my leg and fins the way a dog would. It was amazing fun, but the experience had traces of the amusement park. It was an escape from reality, not an immersion in it.

By contrast, the maina, its black water a portal between worlds, feels exhilaratingly real. When a snowstorm transforms the topside into a swirl of white, it's the perfect moment to slip into a winter of anemones and comb jellies and luminous green-gold ice.

If you were asked to list literary classics, it is unlikely that "Little Red Riding Hood" would be the first to come to mind. You might think of the Bible or Shakespeare, since they are the two most widely owned masterworks of Western literature. But, as novelist A.S. Byatt notes, "Grimms' Fairy Tales," which contains the popular "Little Red Riding Hood," is probably third.

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm collected tales from folk sources, and published their "Children's and Household Tales" in 1812. To make the stories more literary and more appropriate for children, they made revisions throughout their seven editions, the last published in 1857.

These fairy tales deal with the same issues, such as love and death, as all great literature. They do so without hiding violence, hate, or even lust, making them quite different from most children's books of today. They set a standard for literary works -- Vladimir Nabokov was right when he said that all great novels are great fairy tales.

The stories are presented both concretely and magically, matching the child's manner of thinking. With their great emotional and moral power, and with their being first heard at an early age, they are more than literary. They suggest a model of living for the child.

"Little Red Riding Hood" is about a beautiful girl leaving home to visit her sick grandmother. The heroine starts down a path, carrying cakes and wine to make Grandma feel better. Along the way, she meets a friendly wolf who asks her where she is going. The charming Red Riding Hood all but invites him to meet her at Grandma's by pinpointing the location of her house. The wolf thinks, "What a tender young creature! What a nice plump mouthful."

The wolf persuades Little Red Riding Hood to wander off into the woods to see the beautiful flowers, to hear the birds singing and to enjoy the merry woods. This ploy allows the wolf to rush off to eat Grandma, disguise himself as her, and wait in bed for the girl. When she arrives, she questions the wolf about his appearance. And when she finally asks about his big teeth, he famously replies "The better to eat you with" and devours her.

Sated, the wolf falls asleep. Luckily, a hunter walks by, checks on Grandma, and discovers what has happened. He cuts open the wolf's belly, releasing Grandma and Little Red Riding Hood, both unharmed. Then Red Riding Hood springs into action herself and kills the wolf by piling rocks in his belly.

The fairy tale is fantastic, but that is necessary because of children's magical thinking. Their thought is illogical, impulsive and omnipotent. They are not surprised that a wolf talks or that two people can be retrieved whole from his belly. The little girl hearing the story does not simply identify with the little girl in the tale, as an adult might -- she becomes Little Red Riding Hood. Some parents argue that there is too much unreality in fairy tales. On the contrary, the narrative resonates with a child's notion of reality. These tales speak directly to children in their own language; by doing so, they exert their influence.

Another device in "Grimms'" is the use of absolutes. In "Snow White," Mother is divided into the entirely good queen who died and the unremittingly cruel stepmother who wishes to kill the girl. In "Little Red Riding Hood," fatherly attributes are split between the good protective hunter and the sinful, animalistic wolf. Since children themselves think in absolutes, a clean division of attributes makes it easier for the child to consider opposite qualities.

Violence and sexuality are, as the Grimm scholar Maria Tatar says, "the major thematic concern of the tales . . . at least in their unedited form." Rumpelstiltskin tears himself in two, Snow White's stepmother dances herself to death in red-hot iron shoes, and Hansel and Gretel are left in the forest to die. (If these scenes are unfamiliar, you have read a bowdlerized version. These "retellings" are to the Grimms what Cliffs Notes are to Shakespeare.)

But the Brothers Grimm cannot be blamed for introducing alien thoughts into the child's mind. The child has his own fears of and desires for violence before encountering the fairy tales. He will never experience the precise situations that occur in "Grimms'," but he does fear death and abandonment. He also has his own monstrous and destructive wishes. All this is obvious from even the most cursory observation of preschoolers' play. The genius of these tales is that they intuitively address such wishes and fears -- and allow the child to use the narrative to master them. Little Red Riding Hood not only survives the wolf's cannibalism but she kills him -- she has become a more assertive person.

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